With the opening of the improvements to the Central Portico in September 2005, Phase II of the Masterplan was complete. This connects to and extends the East Wing Project completed 12 months earlier. With these two phases the National Gallery possesses a comprehensive plan for facilities for its 5.5 million annual visitors. The final phase has still to be commissioned.
The overall proposal is informed by two primary ideas: firstly that the visitor arriving at the main Portico Entrance should be able to go straight to the paintings; secondly, that information, guidance and other facilities should be readily available but discreet.
In Phase II, the original entrance hall, with its cramped and unwelcoming conditions has been transformed. Two problematic large piers supporting the dome and dividing the hall have been removed using two storey high steel trusses. This enlarged new entrance contains the reception desks and the visitor is led to the redecorated and reclaimed Crace staircase hall and beyond which is the beginning of the collection. It is at this point that the new circulation system reconciles those entering from the East Wing and those entering from the Portico in order to create a single point of access to the main galleries.