Northumbria University, UK.
PRIMARY - An expansion of the threshold between the artist and the audience; the gallery and the street.
Through a forensic analysis of the former Odeon Building, the project acts almost as memorial to the building and celebrating a home-grown grassroots artistic community, which are now being displaced from Pilgrim Street as well as a tour de force demonstration of what could have been an extraordinary public space to rival Tate Modern's Turbine Hall.
PRIMEART is a cultural architectural regeneration of the former Odeon Building in the East Pilgrim Street Development Area, Newcastle.
The project will provide opportunity for the arts and the audience to work and play in an experimental 'palace' of art, community and exchange.
The scheme provides an opportunity to culturally regenerate the city centre of Newcastle by creating a permanent sustainable solution for the established artistic community and and encouraging public interaction and exchange within the arts.
Firstly Matt, if you could give us an introduction about yourself, where you have studied, what stage you are in your architectural career/degree and also any of your interests or specialities?
I'm an architectural designer based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, I am currently working at MawsonKerr Architects. I studied at Northumbria University for both Undergraduate and Master degrees where my architectural approach heavily focused on the contextual and historical analysis and interpretation of each project.
What inspired you to undertake the project in this location, and what were the main drivers behind the project?
The Unit began with an examination of Newcastle's city centre which concluded that there is a predominant axis that runs through the city from East to West, Newbridge St to Gallowgate. A distinct area of this axis is East Pilgrim Street Development (EPSD). Over the past six years there has been an ongoing development of the East Pilgrim Street area which led to the creation and growth of small artists’ organisations benefiting from cheap rent on empty office buildings.
The artistic communities situated in the area include artist studios, workshops, exhibition spaces, project spaces, collaborative workspaces, and independent theatre/ performance venues. However this thriving artistic community is hidden behind the façades of the buildings’ typologies and due to the temporary nature of their occupation the identity is unknown to many. The three main buildings concerned with the transformation of EPSD are Norham House, Commercial Union House, and Bamburgh House. The scheme proposes an alternative future for these artistic organisations. Rather than being displaced around other areas of the city, the project will establish a fixed facility for the arts.
WOCHENKLAUSUR’s Social Interventions
Inspired by these conversations that served the dual purpose of rendering the cause/problem visible, while providing a neutral space wherein individuals could perhaps speak in a less guarded manner than is generally the case in the public realm. A series of discussions between artists are to be hosted which will allow participants to consider the position of the other side without fearing reproach from their own.
Throughout one week, six continuous conversations were held between different members of the artist community and council members. These conversations led to a brief for the project and a suggestion of spaces to be provided for the arts.
Your project delicately combines old and new through the regeneration of the Odeon Building with the integration of a steel frame construction. The frame is pastel lilac in colour which massively reduces the industrial appearance of the steel frame was this intentional?
The colour treatment of the steel initially came as a response to the historic buff/pink brick that was used on the Odeon Building facade. But through the design process the steel intervention became a symbol of the boldness and joy of the artist' community. The project was also inspired by Cedric Price's 'Fun Palace', so in a way the pastel lilac introduces the element of fun and artistic intervention.
The scheme successfully re-interprets a desolate building with a number of new uses and typologies, from artists’ studios to public community spaces, do you feel this is a method that could be explored more regularly within architecture as opposed to opting for demolition?
Yes. With previous experience and looking at other examples that are around the UK and Europe the re-interpretation of desolate buildings creates different types of spaces that would not necessarily be designed in new structures. Similar to the Turbine Hall on Southbank and MediaLab-Prado in Madrid, stripping existing internal spaces back to the shell create large internal 'urban piazzas' that in these cases give the public covered areas to enjoy.
Your imagery provides atmospheric interpretations that give the viewer a sense of place within the project, how significant are these to your design process?
For me the project was always about the creation of a new street and connection within the city and a place where the social barrier between artists and the audience was broken down by a freedom of space. Therefore, when it came to deciding specific views I focused on the depth of each image, all showing how each space of the proposal are somehow connected. Further, my images predominantly take on a off centred one point perspective in order to show these connections clearly. Activities also played a big part in my choice of views, throughout the project I tried to imagine how the communal spaces would be used on a day-to-day basis.
You also have a distinctive graphical style, is there anything or anybody in particular who has influenced you graphically?
I take influence from a lot of different mediums in my work; from visual artists such as Forbes Massie who portray realism in the still shots of a passing time, to architecture practices such as Monadnock’s one-point perspective collages and Ceruzzi & Murphy’s illustrative images. At the end of this project I found that I was balancing between realism and illustration; from the early development images being more illustrative in manner like a working drawing, and then the finished articles became more defined in parallel to the completion of the project.
I’m sure a lot of our readers will be keen to know what software you use to produce your drawings, could you give us an insight into your process?
I used Revit for creating the 3D model that was the base of drawings and visualisations. Then once rendered I used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to add textures, colour, life, and enhance effects, like shadows and lights in the views.
You are now an architectural designer at the award-winning practice MawsonKerr Architects, what have you learnt from the transition from university to practice?
Through my transition I have learnt that it is important to listen. Listen to your colleagues as they will have greater experience and do not be afraid to ask them questions. I have found that it is still a great learning process and much like university you can figure out something you are stuck on by discussing it with someone else.
If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?
Sketch or make a model. Sometime we rely too much on computers which was the cause of a week long mind-block through my final year. But once I made a model of the detail/design I was stuck on, it became far clearer and easier to overcome the design flaw.
Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?
I have a few of my earlier masters work and some competitions I have participated in outside of university on behance: https://www.behance.net/matthewcglover