Caruso St John
The facades are developed as a continuous patterned surface of pale green pre-cast concrete elements, the cast pattern taken from a specific example of Nottingham lace.
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. An existing north-south public route through the site has been given a renewed purpose by its adjacency to this new public building.
We were interested in the presence of the cliff and the way that it elevates the southern edge of the Lace Market, so that several ranges of buildings are presented, almost in elevation, to the south of the city. While the line of the cliff is reinforced by the low slung body of the building, the profile of Nottingham Contemporary is distinctive and becomes a part of the spectacular view from the south, where the buildings of the Lace Market form a crown against the sky. The roof volumes build up in size towards High Pavement and have a clear relationship to the volume and scale of the existing Georgian townhouses that line the southern edge of the Lace Market./Adam Caruso
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. 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 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.
The facades of Nottingham Contemporary are developed as a continuous patterned surface of pale green pre-cast concrete elements. The cast pattern is taken from a specific example of Nottingham lace, which itself was a machine made copy of a French hand made original. The lace was scanned, and then the scale, tiling and contrast of the two dimensional image was worked. This modified image was then converted into a three dimensional description which was used to drive a milling machine that produced a full sized positive in MDF which was then used to make hard latex moulds. Four, 14 meter long latex moulds were used to cast all of the pre-cast elements on the building.
The two rooftop monitors, figures that give Nottingham Contemporary its silhouette within city's skyline are clad in tall sheets of gold anodized aluminum which have been given a gently billowing profile that serves to stiffen the very thin material.
Facts about Nottingham Contemporary
Gross internal floor area:
Peter St John
Mouchel, Jackson Coles
Arup, Elliott Wood (external works)
David Bonnet Associates
Lace Surface Development:
John Angus, University of Derby, Textile Studies
Main Contractor: ROK/SOL Construction
Nottingham City Council
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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