Newport Street Gallery
Newport Street Gallery is the realisation of Hirst’s long-term ambition to share his art collection with the public. Designed by architects Caruso St John, the gallery spans 37,000 square feet and includes six exhibition spaces – one with a ceiling height of eleven metres – split over two levels. Caruso St John have created a stunningly versatile space from a number of linked buildings, with beautifully crafted staircases and superb details including tactile brick facades that blend the street externally and create a succession of wonderful gallery spaces.
“I’ve always loved art and art deserves to be shown in great spaces, so I’ve always dreamed of having my own gallery where I can exhibit work by the artists I love. I believe art should be experienced by as many people as possible and I’ve felt guilty owning work that is stored away in boxes where no one can see it, so having a space where I can put on shows from the collection is a dream come true. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to actually own work by some of the artists who first inspired me and made me want to become an artist – like Picasso or Francis Bacon – but my favourite works by far are those by my contemporaries, and I definitely feel a responsibility to share them as much as I can. Newport Street is an incredible space with an amazing sense of history, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to wear a curatorial hat for a change, I couldn’t be happier.” – Hirst states / On the opening of the gallery
The project involved the conversion of three listed buildings, which were purpose built in 1913 to serve as scenery painting studios for the booming local and West End theatre industries. Hirst acquired the first of the Newport Street buildings in 2002, and initially used it as a studio space. Two new additional buildings were constructed at either end of the existing three, creating a gallery spanning most of the length of the street.
Newport Street Gallery involved the conversion and transformation of a street facing a railway line in Vauxhall, south London, into a free public gallery for artist Damien Hirst’s private art collection. Three listed Victorian industrial buildings, formerly carpentry and scenery painting workshops for West End theatres, have been remodelled and flanked at either end by entirely new buildings; one with a striking, spiky saw-tooth roof.
The new additions have a specially-created hard pale red brick finish to closely reference the original buildings, while a huge LED panel on the railway facade encourages passing train commuters to visit. The ground and upper floors within the interconnected five buildings are continuous, with new spiral staircases on their side, to create flexible spaces able to accommodate everything from individual works to larger shows.
One of the central galleries has a height of 11 metres and the roof of the tallest building has been specifically designed to allow for the installation of large sculptures.
The gallery, which overlooks the railway leading into Waterloo Station, offers striking views from both the street and passing trains. A large LED screen has been erected on the building’s façade – where theatre production posters once hung – which will offer a unique means of displaying exhibition information, as well as providing a platform for artists’ projects and interventions.
The new staircases have strong material and spatial qualities that complement the reduced materiality of the galleries.
The walls are constructed of two separate loadbearing fullbrick leafs. The interior wall, which supports brickfaced precast lintels and soffits, is a creamy white engineering brick, the external walls a smooth pale red brick. The brick walls were built to much higher tolerances than normal to precisely integrate with the precast units and timber stair. The contractor set up elaborate guide wires and templates to keep the brick true.
The stair handrails are smooth precast concrete units built into the walls. They are loadbearing and colour matched to the brick. All the fittings and fixtures are in steel loadbearing housings also built into the brick walls – nothing is applied to the surface.
The curved brick walls are all headers, as are the soffits, to emphasise the density and mass of the brick while achieving a smooth curve. The straight walls are Flemish bond, and the soffits of openings are a solid bedding plane so the brick walls appear to be a mass of brick that has been carved, rather than stacked.
Inside, the timber stairs wind up to the secondfloor galleries. Made of whitepainted spruce and natural oak, they are separated from the brick walls with a 20mm gap, and supported at the halflandings on steel beams. The stairs were prefabricated in Germany to a 3D survey, then carefully inserted into the stairwells.
The insitu concrete landings have the same concrete topping slab as the galleries, with a dry shake finish that has been acidetched and ground to achieve a cloudy appearance. The underside of the landings is finished in painted spruce Triboard. Natural daylight falling from a rooflight above emphasises the stair’s spatial qualities
“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 playful use of LED technology gives a contemporary addition to the facade.Internally, the five buildings are connected as a continuous and coherent sequence of light filled gallery spaces. The simple and logical circulation is enlivened by exquisitely detailed and sensuous staircases.” – Comments from the judges / RIBA Awards
Caruso St John Architects:
This private gallery in Vauxhall has involved the conversion of an extraordinary terrace of listed industrial buildings, that were formerly theatre carpentry and scenery painting workshops. The gallery forms the whole length of the street, with the three listed Victorian buildings flanked at either end by new buildings. The ground and upper floors within the five buildings are continuous, allowing them to be used flexibly in many combinations, to accommodate both large and small exhibitions. There are 3 large galleries on each of the two floors, stretching in a line from one end of the building to the other. The two gallery levels are connected by new spiral staircases and a large lift.
Along Newport Street and facing to the railway, the unusual proportions of the Victorian workshops, with their groups of low level windows and high blank walls above, have been continued in the design of the new buildings. The new facades are made with a hard pale red brick that closely matches the surface of the listed buildings. The five buildings next to each other, all different but obviously related, make a sheer and impressive street elevation.
The scheme includes a restaurant and administrative offices for the gallery. The building shows exhibitions of the client’s extensive collection of contemporary art, and is open to the public for free.
Project name: Newport Street Gallery
Location: Newport St, London SE11 6AJ, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 51.493414, -0.116945
Type: Art center / Gallery
Gross internal floor area: 3,500 sqm
Start on site: August 2012
Completion Date/Year: June 2015
Opening Date: October 2015
Visit Newport Street Gallery’s website: here
Client / Owner / Developer: Science Ltd
Architects: Caruso St John Architects – 1 Coate Street, London E2 9AG, United Kingdom
Project architects: Rod Heyes, Tim Collett
- Adam Caruso, Charles Bedin, Jonas Djernes, Christiane Felber, Kornelia Gysel, Emily Keyte, Paul Maich, Kalle Söderman, Peter St John, Ted Swift, Stephanie Webs, Frank Wössner
Structural engineer/conservation: Alan Baxter
M&E consultant: Max Fordham
M&E contractor: Piggott and Whitfield
Services consultant: Max Fordham
Project manager/cost consultant/CDM advisor: Jackson Coles
Main contractor: Walter Lilly
Access: David Bonnett Associates
Approved building inspector: BRCS
Precast concrete: Cambridge Architectural Precast
Brickfaced precast concrete soffits: Sterling Services
Brickwork: Grangewood Brickwork
Sloped rooflights: Dane Architectural Systems
Flat rooflights: Glazing Innovation
Timber stairs and joinery: Deutsche Werkstatten
Concrete gallery floors: Steysons Granolithic Contractors
Groundworks and insitu concrete: City Basements
Drylining: David Andrews Construction