New Art Gallery and Public Square for Middlesbrough

The first impression of the heart of Middlesbrough is of a wilderness. Disparate buildings and spaces are jumbled together in the heart of a town wrought by a series of political, commercial and planning mishaps. People have little reason to be there and are instead found in the belly of the shopping quarter. Planting is untamed and the unattractive aura of a parking-lot pervades. However the bleakness of this vision slowly fades as one becomes aware of the qualities hidden within the fragments of the built fabric.

Through the acknowledgment and reinforcement of these positive aspects this proposal addresses the weak points through a series of insertions. The intention is to embrace the scale of a grand vision but realise it in such a way that it does not become yet another failed masterstroke.

Victoria Square is simplified by dividing it into a stone plane and a grass plane. The two planes are level and flush but may be articulated with surface treatment which subliminally infers depth and scale. These two planes are framed in a band of trees. Along the south western edge of the square, is a new building containing bus shelters, public toilets, and a newspaper/flower stand. The overall impression of the space is simple, secure and dignified yet capable of holding thousands for open-air events.

The Gallery is sited along the boulevard between Victoria Square and the Central Gardens. In this location the building completes the trio of grand buildings at the north and east sides of Victoria Square maintaining a common roofline. The café and shop overlook the square on the ground floor and behind them is the main entrance. All the ground floor spaces share the generous ceiling height of the main gallery spaces which are laid out on one level parallel to the boulevard. A circulation route winds its way through the building experiencing pressures, turns and unexpected views. Ceilings and floors may not always be level and walls may not always be vertical. Some walls may move and windows may become opaque. By definition a gallery for contemporary art will have been designed and built before much of the art has been made. It must be flexible enough to accommodate the future.

Client : Middlesbrough Town Centre Company
Architects : Studio Granda
Structural Engineers : Línuhönnun / Sam Price & partners
Environmental Engineers : Max Fordham LLP
Quantity Surveyors : Davis Langdon & Everest