Warburg Renaissance

The Warburg Institute Capital Redevelopment Project

The Warburg Renaissance is an opportunity to invigorate the Warburg Institute, making essential improvements to the building and introducing new spaces that connect the Warburg with its origins in Hamburg. This will create new possibilities to develop our reputation as an international beacon for the interaction of images, ideas and society.

This transformative project will establish a haven for scholars, collections and debates by opening the Institute to new partners, publics and ideas. The Warburg will be easier to find, more comfortable to use and provide new facilities for teaching, special collections, exhibitions and public events. There will be an emphasis on digital connections, bringing Warburg’s Bilderatlas to life and exploring the ways in which it anticipated the digital age.

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. 

Cross-section model view of the new floating Lecture Theatre featuring an ellipse within the ceiling to replicate original Hamburg Reading Room, and the Archive collection housed below.

 

Our Vision

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 and entrances to the Lecture Room and the Library 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 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 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; and

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 in the age 

 

The project will deliver

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 

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);
  • A 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);
  • A 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;
  • A 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.

Warburg is Warburg, and everything else is everything else!
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, 2018

If you are interested in helping to aid us in transforming the Warburg Institute please get in touch with our Development Manager lewis.jones@sas.ac.uk