Archetech Issue 30 2017 - Page 42

NEWPORT STREET GALLERY AN ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECE Newport Street Gallery is the realisation of the long-term ambition of artist Damien Hirst to share his extensive private collection of more than 3,000 works of contemporary art with the public. This iconic brick building, with its bold vision and traditional craftsmanship, has been highly praised in the architectural world with accolades ranging from ‘Supreme Winner’ in the 2016 Brick Development Association (BDA) Awards to winner of the prestigious 2016 Stirling Prize. According to the judges of the Stirling Prize: “This highly accomplished and expertly detailed art gallery is a bold and confident contribution to the best of UK architecture. Caruso St John’s approach to conservation is irreverent yet sensitive and achieves a clever solution that expresses a poetic juxtaposition of old and new. The collection of buildings is beautifully curated, pulled together by the use of brick yet still expressive of their individuality.” The project involved the conversion of three listed brick buildings, which had been built in 1913 as carpentry and scenery painting workshops for the once booming West End theatre industry. Two new build structures were constructed at either end to create a gallery that spans half the length of the street. The entire gallery, which occupies 37,000 square feet, was internally restructured to include six exhibition spaces with three large galleries on each of the two floors. The two levels of the gallery are linked by a set of three elliptical spiral staircases, which are constructed from white German engineering brick with built-in precast balustrades, making a spectacular feature. A bold and sympathetic vision As both the ground and upper floors within the five buildings are continuous the spaces have the flexibility to accommodate both individual works and large-scale exhibitions. With some of the inside floors taken out to open up the space, the vast interior has been described as ‘cathedral like’. In fact one of the central galleries has a ceiling height of eleven metres split over two levels to allow for the installation of larger sculptures. Designed by Caruso St John Architects, the gallery occupies a terrace of new-build and refurbished blocks that line Newport Street’s eastern side opposite the elevated railway arches in Vauxhall, south London. The central architectural inspiration for the design was the original Victorian brick buildings with their unusual proportions, groups of low-level windows and high blank walls. This composition was continued in the design of the new buildings, which are embellished by a spikey saw-tooth roof at the northern end, which echoes the industrial heritage and local roofscapes. Expressive brickwork As the brickwork was very much the unifying force binding the old and the new elements together, it was important that the new semi-industrial facades were as sympathetic as possible to the listed buildings, which was a challenge as much of the old brickwork comprised all sorts of different colours. Peter St John, Partner at Caruso St John Architects said: “We had to really search for a brick that had something of the quality of the existing building. The brick we found, by Northcot in Gloucestershire, is an oil release brick with a smooth surface. It’s not like a London stock with a sandy surface and the colour match is pretty good.” After a detailed selection process, master brickmakers at Northcot Brick, who still use brickmaking techniques that have hardly changed over the centuries, created two distinct bespoke blends: Newport Light and Newport Dark to match to the ‘common’ fletton-style brick of the listed buildings. Both blends were essentially a variation