Rising to the Challenge of Making an Historic Building Future-proof

A “once in a generation” opportunity to reconceive the concept of a museum is entering a new phase of realisation with the completion of crucial enabling works, supported by leading air movement specialist Gilberts.

The iconic, historic Smithfield Market is being redeveloped as a new Museum of London, due to open in 2026. Before the re-imagining of the interior can take place, principal contractor PAYE Conservation has carried out detailed repairs and refurbishment to stabilise and weatherproof the 150 years old building fabric, utilising specialist suppliers where necessary.

PAYE approached Gilberts to design and manufacture bespoke louvred lantern lights to replace the existing eight glazed louvred lights along all four sides of the main building which had failed beyond economic repair.

The challenge was to devise a system that maintained the visual aesthetics of the historic rooftop utilising the existing framework where possible whilst providing adequate free ventilation area for modern standards.

Gilberts’ technical experts designed and engineered the 288 louvres based around its WHF high performance louvre with 50mm blades in RAL7022 ombra grey to integrate with the specific existing centres and align with the roof rafter above for the exterior. Gilberts’ VN75 natural ventilation damper with modulating motor behind each WHF50 louvre will control the airflow when connected to the BMS. Internally, the louvre arrangement is finished with a further bespoke design of Gilberts’ WG louvre, powder coated to RAL7044 silk grey, inverted and set at 75mm pitch and featuring a flange top and bottom with flangeless sides to create a shadowline appearance mimicking the original architectural aesthetic.

The complete units deliver Class A weathertightness of 99%, with a net free ventilation area of 50%.

“The positioning of the original timber mullions compromised space for modern levels of airflow,” explained Gilberts’ Sales Director Ian Rogers. “Fitting a refined version of our WHF upside down, with our VN damper and a bespoke version of our WGF externally optimises the maximum free ventilation area in line with today’s requirements.”

Added Mark Pettyfer, Associate Director at PAYE, “Coincidentally the ventilation requirements for the museum are similar to those of the market- the need for fresh, air without damp and draughts- except that instead of protecting and preserving delicate fruits and vegetables, we are preserving the city’s history and heritage. Gilberts played a fundamental role in helping us deliver that whilst maintaining the aesthetics of the atmospheric building: as a company it has the technical expertise and manufacturing capability to engineer a bespoke, discreet, functional solution.”

Gilberts is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of louvre screening, developed over the years to provide a comprehensive package to keep pace with the evolution of building design and structural interfaces, initially and as/if the building structure is altered. Options include standard and high performance, factory- and site- assembled, and acoustic variants.

The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (aka Wimbledon), Papworth Hospital, the former home of Saga Record The Gramophone Works and Manchester’s iconic PrintWorks are among the venues to benefit from Gilberts’ louvres.

Founded over half a century ago, and still family-owned, Gilberts is the UK’s leading independent air movement engineer. It is unique in its ability to design, manufacture and test all products- including bespoke fabrications- in-house, to the extent it even designs and manufactures its own tools at its 140,000 sq ft head office and production facility.

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