The Painted Hall

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Application Type

Universal Design

Level of Award

Highly Commended


Greater London

Local Authority Area


Information about this scheme

The purpose of the Greenwich Foundation is to provide opportunities for diverse audiences to enjoy the magnificent buildings and grounds of the Old Royal Naval College.

Access for all is critical and the Painted Hall project has been guided by an ambitious programme of public engagement focusing on accessibility and inclusion. The Painted Hall is arranged on three levels linked by stone steps and accessibility has presented a significant challenge. For example, the only means of access and egress for wheelchair users involved the use of stair climbers, which were unacceptable for both staff and visitors.

The architects developed access solutions in close consultation with the Centre for Accessible Environments and the Historic England Inspector to ensure that the interventions provided exemplary levels of access without having a negative impact on the Scheduled Monument. A detailed Activity Plan was developed to engage with inclusive access bodies such as Vocal Eyes to further inform the design. The project addressed access issues by radically changing the route for all visitors into the Painted Hall. The visitor entrance has been relocated to a side entrance on College Way. All visitors enter through automatic doors into the new entrance hall, created within part of the old kitchen area. This leads into a welcome area providing a café, shop, interpretation gallery and toilets.

The new visitor entrance is fully inclusive and includes an elegantly designed new platform lift down to Undercroft level. Visitors are welcomed by volunteers and then directed up to Hall level via the stairs or via a second disabled access lift. The discreet design of this lift has become a benchmark for the integration of accessibility within highly sensitive historic buildings. The lift reused a former goods lift shaft and the design required a special derogation to ensure that a full height enclosure was not required at the upper level, which would have had a negative impact on the architecture of the Hall. In summer 2017 the Foundation launched a new access programme, including British Sign Language (BSL) tours and audio- described tours. Staff and volunteers were trained in audio-description by VocalEyes allowing them to offer audio-described tours for blind and partially-sighted visitors on demand.

The ground breaking approach to universal design is reflected in the wide range of available interpretation. This includes tactile exhibits and mirror tables with braille text and relief images of the Painted Hall ceiling.

Multi media guides with audio tours are provided to every visitor and include subtitling and signing. Seating has also been provided throughout for visitors to rest. During the project the scaffold required to carry out the work was designed to be fully accessible with generous stairs and an access lift. This allowed 80,000 visitors to witness the conservation work at close quarters.



Hugh Broughton Architects

Conservation Architect

Martin Ashley Architects

Main Contractor

Coniston Ltd

Project Manager

Glevum Consulting

Quantity Surveyor

Huntley Cartwright

Services Engineer


Structural Engineer

SFK Consulting

Universal Design Consultant

Centre for Accessible Environments

Acoustic Consultant

Ramboll Acoustic


Pre-Construct Archaeology

Lighting Design

Sutton Vane Associates

Heritage Interpretation

Simon Leach Design


PFB Construction Management Services Ltd

Environmental Consultant

Tobit Curteis Associates


Paine and Stewart

Primary Use Class

Class D1f - Public Library/Archive/Visitor Centre