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Thursday24 July 2014

Carroll Fletcher Gallery by Allsop Gollings Architects

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This recently established practice has created a simple and flexible concrete construction

Project
Carroll Fletcher Gallery
Architect
Allsop Gollings Architects
Location
London
Completed
February 2012

In the central London area north of Oxford Street and east of Regent Street, amongst a growing community of contemporary art galleries, the recently established practice of Allsop Gollings Architects has completed the transformation of the Carroll Fletcher Gallery.

Carroll Fletcher Gallery by Allsop Gollings Architects

Source: Sue Barr

Concrete reception desk and staircase

The space comprises a ground floor gallery, a reception and staff area and a new staircase linking down to a basement gallery. In both the layout and operation there is a clear division between the gallery space, that needed to be as simple and flexible as possible, and the associated circulation and staff area.

Carroll Fletcher Gallery by Allsop Gollings Architects

Exploded isometric view of the recption desk and staircase

The display areas then are a series of plain white spaces that can be easily reconfigured, unified by a new concrete floor. In contrast, as the architects developed their designs they investigated a series of options for the fixed areas that were able to give a more permanent character to the gallery.

Whilst the white box has become almost universally adopted as the default environment for modern art, concrete has been established as a material that somehow represents the contemporary art world and, having reviewed many material options, the client was clear in their preference for concrete construction.

Carroll Fletcher Gallery by Allsop Gollings Architects

Source: Sue Barr

Looking down into the new staircase

Concrete casting

Two neighbouring elements were cast in-situ, a reception desk with storage and a staircase linking ground and basements galleries that spirals around a central void space that one hopes will provoke site-specific installations. The use of a common datum between the top of the balustrade and the top of the desk counter, as well as a uniform thickness of concrete walls, closely relates the two structures; both tightly nestled within the surrounding white walls.

However, the impression that the concrete has somehow squatted in whatever space was left over after the white walls were installed is a careful piece of deception, the existing galleries having been gutted, and the space used for the casting operation prior to the installation of the plasterboard walls around the concrete elements.

Carroll Fletcher Gallery by Allsop Gollings Architects

Source: Allsop Gollings Architects

Site photograph showing the formwork for the new staircase adjacent to the party wall

The concrete stair was constructed in three lifts corresponding with the floor levels and landings. Casting adjacent to a party wall with a fire escape on the neighbours side proved difficult and required the shuttering to encompass and bolt through the existing wall with structural propping from the neighbour’s side at high level.

The architects wanted the balustrades and treads to read homogenously and, to avoid colour difference, therefore looked to use the same concrete for both. This resulted in a standard but relatively stiff mix such that the treads could be trowel applied.

The concrete formwork utilised simple phenolic paper-faced plywood to line the shuttering panels, primarily to achieve a plain finish that was appropriately undemonstrative within the gallery setting. The tie holes are filled, the tops of the walls finished in a thin coat of Fosroc and repairs have been kept to a minimum.

Together these choices have resulted in a final finish that is satisfyingly unfussy and, given the inevitable fixings and re-fixings it will encounter over the years, well-judged and practical.

PROJECT TEAM
Architect
Allsop Gollings Architects
Client Carroll Fletcher
Structural engineer Elliott Wood Partnership
Services engineer Mendick Waring
Quantity surveyor Measur
Main contractor Delcon
Windows and doors supplier Drawn Metal (facade)

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