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The Warburg Renaissance will transform the Warburg Institute by restoring its original vision and making it ready for future generations.  We aim to enhance the Institute’s academic resources, teaching facilities and public offerings, and create new facilities for special collections, exhibitions, and events.

Through creating a more open and accessible building, we will be able to welcome in and educate a wider audience. The new public hub will revive the Institute’s early emphasis on display, nearly double the size of the lecture theatre, and introduce a new digital laboratory and a new café in opened-up, double-height spaces on the Ground Floor. A teaching suite with enlarged seminar rooms and improved group study areas will help us meet our ambitious targets for growing our Postgraduate programmes and student community. The Library will be expanded to allow for at least 20 years of growth, along with refurbished stacks and improved climate control. In addition, the Archive and Photographic Collection will be relocated into new, purpose-designed spaces, alongside bespoke labs for conservation and imaging.

The total cost of the project is £14.5 million. The University has committed two thirds of this budget to the sum of £9.5 million, which is a third of its current capital project budget. We are seeking philanthropic support of £5 million and looking for partners to help us write the next chapter of this illustrious institution’s history.

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The Warburg Institute: The Future of Cultural Memory 

The Warburg Institute is one of the world’s leading centres for studying the interaction of ideas, images and society. It is dedicated to the survival and transmission of culture across time and space, with a special emphasis on the afterlife of antiquity. Its Library, Photographic Collection and Archive serve as an engine for interdisciplinary research, postgraduate teaching, and an active events and publication programme. 

Today, we can apply the Institute’s founding mission, academic strength and revolutionary approach to inform contemporary cultural, political and intellectual work, completing the vision and the building that houses it for new generations. The project offers a unique opportunity to support the architectural and intellectual transformation of one of the world’s leading scholarly institutions and to shape the future of cultural memory. 

Our Vision

An architectural cross-section by Haworth Tompkins depicting the possible design of the Warburg Institute
An architectural cross-section by Haworth Tompkins depicting the possible design of the Warburg Institute

The Warburg Renaissance is driven by a complete renovation of the Institute’s much-loved but long-neglected building. It was designed, like most of the University’s Bloomsbury Estate, by Charles Holden, best known for his work on nearby Senate House and dozens of stations on the London Underground.

The project provides the opportunity to renew the Institute’s founding mission and apply it to contemporary cultural, political and social understanding. The ground floor will be transformed into a new and dynamic space for lectures, exhibitions and digital experimentation.

It is a library like no other in Europe – its cross-disciplinary reference, its peculiarities, its originality, its strange depths and unexpected shallows.

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 2015

The Warburg is looking to transform itself into an institution that:

Opens the collections it holds and expertise it hosts to new audiences 

The new hub at the heart of the Institute will enhance the Institute’s academic resources and its public offerings. It represents a fundamental change of orientation and posture, joining up discovery, display and debate for broader communities of students, curators and artists as well as giving proper access (for the first time) to the general public

Provides a haven for endangered scholars and special collections 

Improved use of space will ensure that we have the facilities needed to preserve and share our most precious materials as well as room for hosting larger numbers of visiting fellows and externally funded research projects.

Connects with digital partners to shape the future of cultural memory 

New spaces and projects will not only give the Warburg the digital presence it lacks but give it a central place in the pressing questions (posed by Warburg himself) about how images are classified, transmitted, searched for and used.

Sketched view of the new digital exhibition space, café/common room on the opened up Ground Floor

The Warburg Renaissance will enhance existing programmes and give us new capacity for activities that are currently impossible:

The programmes for showing, talking and hosting made possible by the new spaces will open the Warburg to new audiences and make the Institute more accessible – especially for those who do not know what it is or how it might be relevant to them; andThe renovated teaching spaces will help us meet our ambitious targets for growing our MA programmes and increasing our PhD community. Furthermore, our new initiatives for summer schools and short training courses will be improved, as well as the learning experience of all students;

The digital lab and its projects will not only make our collections available to people outside London but will involve us in innovative thinking about how we search for and interpret images.

Our bold aim now is to open up our work and make new connections, providing new spaces and tools for using cultural memory to shape our future.

Professor Bill Sherman, Director of the Warburg Institute 

The project will deliver

A new public hub on the Ground Floor featuring:

  • The Warburg’s first space for exhibitions (with views out – and in – from the central windows on its Gordon Square façade);
  • common room (with catering facilities for individual researchers, Institute gatherings, public visits and evening receptions);
  • A dramatic floating lecture theatre within the courtyard (increasing our capacity from 80 to 140);
  • digital lab where students and visitors can explore Warburg’s pioneering work on images, including a touch-screen version of his Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, his large project to map the migration of visual symbols from antiquity to the present;
  • Refurbished stacks for the Library with improved climate control and room for at least 20 years of growth;
  • Secure and accessible space to store, study and display the Archives (which are currently scattered in ill-suited cabinets across the 3rd and 4th Floors);
  • Bespoke labs for Conservation and Imaging;
  • A teaching suite with enlarged seminar rooms; and improved group study spaces for MA and PhD students;
  • reconfigured entrance featuring a digital display on the Warburg’s history and activities, with views across the courtyard structure and into the Library; and
  • Improved environmental performance throughout the building (aspiring to a SKA Gold Rating), including the replacement of the entire roof.
Sketched view of the new digital exhibition space and entrances to the Lecture Room and the Library on the opened up Ground Floor

Warburg is Warburg, and everything else is everything else!

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, 2018