Her Majesty The Queen today officially opened Somerset House East Wing, the new front door to King’s College London. 180 years after King’s was built on the Strand, the College has realised its long-held ambition to move into the East Wing. King’s has breathed new life into the building which will be restored to its original status as a landmark London public building, refurbished to the highest standards with its architectural harmony enhanced and public access improved.
The Queen, Patron of the College, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, was escorted through the Grade I listed building by Lord Douro, Chairman of King’s College Council, and Professor Sir Rick Trainor, the College Principal. The building is the new home for the School of Law and The Queen watched a student Moot Court in session before meeting staff and students from the School. She also visited the Inigo Rooms, a dedicated cultural space. At the end of the visit The Queen unveiled a plaque to formally open the re-furbished building.
The official launch of Somerset House East Wing comes after 18 months of restoration, which began when King’s secured a 78 year lease for the building in 2009. The interior has been stripped of alterations made over the years, new lifts have been installed and the basement floor lowered. Original features, such as cornices and fireplaces, have been refurbished. The interior decoration has been carefully conceived to complement the historic setting of the building. Designers have re-introduced colours in keeping with the Georgian style, whilst creating a fresh and modern interior suited to a working building for the 21st century.
Somerset House East Wing will play a key role in King’s continued development as a world-class university, extending the Strand campus and providing high quality accommodation for the College’s teaching and research. In its new home, the School of Law now has premises fitting to its standing as one of Europe’s premier law schools and reflecting its 180 year old tradition of excellence.
The School of Law will enjoy state of the art teaching facilities and learning spaces as well as a dedicated Moot Court. King’s Law students have excelled at moot court competitions over the years; now this new facility will enable them to practise their courtroom performance skills in space specifically designed for this purpose.
The Performance Foundation will be housed in Somerset House East Wing. The Performance Foundation seeks to support discrete disciplinary interests from across the higher education spectrum for whom performance presents an opportunity to improve, advance and deepen their interpretive and practical conduct. It supports the increased interface between such disciplinary interests and the public realm through the creation of new forms of creative assembly and play. It brokers imaginative engagements between academic expertise and the public appetite for access to advanced forms of learning outside the restraints and strictures of formal educational protocols.
The King’s Executive Centre will be based on the first floor of Somerset House East Wing and offers a range of training suites, seminar, meeting and breakout rooms, lounges and business centre, together with state-of-the-art audio-visual technology and quality catering. The facility is aimed at the executive education market and is also available for external hire meetings, video conferencing, launches and events.
The ground floor will be converted into space for cultural activities open to the public for the first time. The Inigo Rooms will provide a focal point and showcase for many of the cultural aspects of the College and will seek to create new forms of engagement with artists, writers, historians and others involved in the cultural community.
The Principal, Professor Sir Rick Trainor, said: ‘This is an historic moment for the College. Somerset House East Wing will be a stimulating centre of teaching and research, especially for our School of Law, a place of debate and public engagement and a focus for new collaborations in culture and art.
‘This is the fulfilment of a dream that King’s has nurtured ever since its foundation. We are very proud to be writing the latest chapter of the distinguished history of this landmark building. Somerset House East Wing is a building that will enrich the lives of our current students and those of generations to come.’