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Architects in Nottingham

Nottingham Contemporary by Caruso St John Architects

London practice Caruso St John Architects have completed an art centre in Nottingham, UK.

Called Nottingham Contemporary, the project is inspired by artists' spaces in down-town New York during the 1960s.

Located in the Lace Market area of the city, the design aimed to recreate the feeling of found spaces in a new building.

The facade is clad in lace-patterned, pre-cast concrete, inspired by the regular and repeated surfaces of the surrounding warehouses.

Two blocks on the roof are covered in fluted gold anodised aluminium.

The centre opened to the public on Saturday.

Here's some more information from the architects:

Nottingham Contemporary

Nottingham has a history as a place for contemporary art, for performance and time based practice as well as for object based work. This legacy recalls the artist run spaces of downtown New York in the late 1960s, and the work of artists like Gordon Matta Clark and Trisha Brown whose work directly engaged the spaces of the city around them. The legacy of the downtown loft lives on in places like PS 1 in New York, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and the De Pont Foundation in Tilburg, buildings whose artistic programmes fully exploit the strong and specific character of their found interiors. Our project for Nottingham Contemporary sets out to offer a wide inventory of interiors that have the variety and specificity of found spaces, within a new building.

We wondered if the history and urban qualities of the site in Nottingham’s Lace Market, which has parallels to the cast iron district of downtown New York, offered an opportunity to make art spaces that were unusually engaged with the cultural and topographical qualities of their site. The design engages with the major levels of a very complex site. An existing north-south public route through the site has been given a renewed purpose by its adjacency to this new public building. At High Pavement, to the north of the site, a covered yard provides a generous outdoor space at the entrance to the building, and a starting point for this public route. Garner’s Hill stairs have been straightened and made more than 5 metres wide, and the route southwards affords views and access to each of the levels of the interior.

The route culminates in a second public yard at the southern end of the building, a space where the café can spill outdoors and which provides a second entrance to the building from the south. A last flight of the stair completes the route to Cliff Road where vehicular access, loading facilities, workshops and plant are located. The close relationship between the interior of the building and the topography of the land means that the character of Nottingham Contemporary has fundamentally emerged from the specific qualities of its site.

The main entrance to the building is from Upper Yard. A large canopy, like a cinema marquee marks the point of entry, and even before entering, one can see art within the depth of the building. Passing through glazed entrance doors one enters into the first in a network of five rooms. The ground floor galleries have a 4.5 metre clear height and even top lighting that is moderated by a grid of lightweight coffers that are suspended within the steel roof structure.

The galleries are defined by thin, non load bearing walls, and are connected by large glazed openings that afford views across the width and length of the floor and which lend flexibility to how this suite of rooms can be used. The northern most gallery is 10 metres high and has a single large roof light and a 9 metre wide window facing Weekday Cross and beyond towards the centre of Nottingham.

The lower exhibition space is a large, lozenge shaped room, 7.5 metres high and formed in concrete. One can feel that this room is built deep into the sandstone cliff. The 1.5 metre depth of the concrete beams that span the space accommodate a fully flexible theatrical rig. Retractable bleacher seating enables the space to be used for cinema and performance as well as for visual art. To the south is the café and bar that can be independently entered from Lower Yard. In the middle of the building a mezzanine level accommodates education and office spaces.


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