Stuart Shave / Modern Art

Stuart Shave/Modern Art
Clerkenwell, London

This contemporary art gallery for Stuart Shave/Modern Art lies opposite Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor’s St Luke’s Old Street church (1733) and forms a component of the St Luke’s Conservation Area. The site originally contained three dilapidated commercial buildings from the mid-1940s. These featured extensive north-facing roof lights and inherently well-proportioned spaces, albeit hidden behind years of ad hoc adaptation.

The project draws the three existing structures together, forming an appropriate context for the church, while reusing qualities of the existing buildings for the display of contemporary art. Stuart Shave/Modern Art consists of a larger gallery of 110 sqm and a smaller gallery of 55 sqm, along with private viewing, staging and storage areas. There is separate access to upper level offices and a sheltered outdoor staff area in the two-storey building to the rear of the site.

During the design process, full-scale mock-ups were prepared to test gallery proportions, openings and key details before development. This helped to establish principles for the interface between new and existing elements during construction.

Spatially, the sequence of galleries is unified by a new exposed polished concrete topping slab with integrated underfloor heating. This new datum reconciles the various original floor levels and provides level access from the street. New patent glazing roof lights incorporate diffuse Georgian wired glass and opening panes for natural ventilation, while overhead track lighting supplements daylight and provides flexibility to suit the gallery’s programme of painting and sculpture.

The principal elevation consists of a three-metre glazed entry door and six blind steel-framed windows. The proportion and rhythm of the new windows is adapted from the original pattern of openings along the facade and modestly reflects the cast iron windows of St Luke’s opposite. Existing brickwork and lintels have been repaired where necessary and some recent openings in the facade closed-in.

A sense of the patchwork history of the original masonry is retained, whilst the overall elevation is unified through a series of thin mineral washes. This creates a purplish dark grey overall tone while allowing subtle differences in the brickwork to remain apparent.

The ambition of Stuart Shave/Modern Art is to form a new architectural identity that contributes positively to the St Luke’s Conservation Area setting. It is neither explicitly modern nor overly beholden to the past, but rather coaxes unused spaces back into public life, while retaining a memory of their previous functions.

Client: Modern Art / Stuart Shave
Location: London, United Kingdom
Status: Completed 2014
Photography: Maris Mezulis