At almost 310 metres high The Shard is the tallest building in the capital, towering over its London neighbours in Southwark.
One of those in its shadow is the site for what will become Science Gallery London, an exhibition and performance space that, from 2018, hopes to connect scientific researchers, students, local communities and artists.
The venture is part of the Global Science Gallery Network – which will see eight galleries open or in development by 2020, each of which will provide its home city with a platform for live research and experimentation. So far locations include Dublin, Melbourne, Bengaluru and Venice.
Science Gallery London’s site is Boland House, a Grade II listed building that is part of King’s College London’s Guy’s Campus and home to its Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine and Dental Institute.
The building work that began last spring aims to produce a space will attract over 300,000 visitors a year. It’s not quite the one million people that ascended to The Shard’s 72nd floor viewing platform in its first year, but it’s also a not inconsequential footfall.
To achieve this, and set it apart from the likes of the Wellcome Collection (whose permanent collections include Medicine Man on the life of founder Sir Henry Wellcome), Science Gallery London also plans an ‘ever-changing programme of participatory exhibitions and events’. Alongside this it will hold events, performances, live experiments, open discussions and festivals, ‘all with scientific engagement at their core’.
Among the other factors that will set the project apart from its peers, the gallery says, are its focus on young adults, clear links with artists and its local community.
Backed by funders that include the Wellcome Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, the free-to-enter space also aims to health and wellbeing innovation in its programme.
Whether it’s a success or not Science Gallery London has already chalked up one victory even before its door are open, by pushing out the McDonald’s that used to be in residence at Boland House.
When it opened in 1992 it was the restaurant chain’s first branch on in Europe to be sited on a healthcare campus – clearly a dubious honour. “We’re undoing that wrong from many people’s perspective,” Science Gallery London’s director Dr Daniel Glaser noted in 2014.