The conversion of an outbuilding for Flat Time House forms part of a phased approach for the future of the gallery. EBBA have developed proposals for the small yet ambitious gallery in South London, taking inspiration from the works of the founder John Latham. As part for the first phase, EBBA have created a new artist studio and archive for the gallery’s growing research and events programme.
These proposals look to resolve some issues with the use of the spaces on the ground floor, by creating better connections to the existing gallery, establishing a new research centre with a store for the large collection of artworks. The future works will consider how to connect the outbuilding with the house through a landscaping proposal. The project is conceived as a series of abstracted and sympathetic revisions that will allow the users to interact with the gallery in a new way.
The spirit of the new spaces take cues from the existing house and the works of John Latham, seeing the interventions as “attachments” that respect the existing conditions of the gallery. Understanding the house as a number of events and accumulations, the new elements are conceived to be read as such. These small projects are an add-on that speak of the materiality of layers, building on the importance of the house as an artwork. Reuse of the demolished interior structures become new workbenches for the artist studio and rubble from previous alterations are ground into aggregate for bespoke concrete fixtures. The history of the mezzanine is retained as an imprint in the floor where the legs used to sit.
The project attempts to question how retrofit can work to create multifunctional spaces for a gallery that was once a domestic setting. The interventions try to bridge this gap through the feeling of domesticity.
Questions & Answers:
What was the brief?
We were asked to look at the phased development of the gallery over the next couple of years. Most importantly was to think about how to transform the tired outbuilding at the rear of the gallery, as a way of activating the space and generating a small income through renting out the artist studio. Similarly, a key part of the brief asked for ways to store the large collection of permanent and temporary works, many of which are used and go on loan for archival research.
What were the key challenges?
The first phase of the project had to be delivered on an incredibly small budget and within a challenging time-frame to work around different exhibitions. A key consideration was to try and re-use as much of the existing materials as a way of reducing cost, including the structure of the mezzanine, parts of the original brick structure and other objects accumulated in the space over the years.
Importantly, the project had to respond to the history of the house and the ideas of John Latham, with alterations to be clearly read as something that had been added.
What were the solutions?
From the beginning we were interested in creating a simple set of interventions that would allow the spaces to work functionally, while giving a new distinctive character to help tie the spaces together. Using old photographs and our own site investigations, we developed a palette of natural timber that would read in contrast to the raw walls which we had to completed restore and renovate. We responded to the found conditions by creating large pieces of joinery that would carry all the functional aspects required for each space. The racking for the archival side was made specifically to house all of the artworks the gallery owned, with the storage in the artist studio offering flexible ways to use the large shelving, integrating a large sink for washing paint brushes. The ash joinery of the shelves in the artist studio were hand-stained using special inks, which was a response to the works of John Latham himself.
In order to make use of the material of the original mezzanine, we dismantled, repaired, sanded and reassembled the timber into large tables to be used by the artists in the space. The legs of the mezzanine transformed into large thick posts for the table, with the floorboards becoming the table tops.
As a way of keeping the imprint of the mezzanine, we cut blocks from the original mezzanine and installed them in the floor were the legs used to sit.
Bricks found from the existing structure were re-used in the aggregate for special tiles that defined key areas in the two spaces, such as splash backs and light fixtures.
The project was design and built by the studio, using the skills and understanding of detailing to make the most of the challenging project.