Building Study: Goldsmiths CCA, London, by Assemble

Goldsmiths CCA_Exterior 2_Copyright Assemble

Ike Ijeh assesses the Turner Prize-winning collective’s first major permanent building

If there is one typology of modern architecture where repetition is almost hardwired into its DNA, it is the contemporary art gallery. With the best will in the world, it is rare to find a modern gallery that deviates from the commonly accepted architectural rulebook that demands white cube rooms, diffuse natural light, a clinical atmosphere, a spatially autonomous interior severed from the outside world and, of course, the obligatory spartan cafe. 

This explains why some of the best galleries in recent years have been inserted into or beside existing buildings. Spaces such as David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum, elements of Jamie Fobert’s Kettle’s Yard and the exquisite exterior of Caruso St John’s Newport Street Gallery all skilfully weave themselves into a retained fabric, loosening the sector’s customary aesthetic straitjacket to offer a more vivid and textural physical counterpoint. This in turn challenges the new architecture to carve a customised response that is richer, more resonant and more personalised than might otherwise have been the case. 

This has largely been the approach at London’s newest contemporary gallery, Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA). Part of the famous Goldsmiths College at the University of London, the gallery is the long-awaited competition-winning creation of radical young design collective Assemble and represents their most significant single building to date. 

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