Nottingham Contemporary was designed by the award winning architects Caruso St John, based in London’s East End. One inspiration was the surrounding Lace Market, specifically the bold, elegant design of the warehouses that serviced the city’s world famous trade in the 19th century. Artists’ uses of raw former warehouses spaces (e.g. In New York in the 70s and Berlin in the 90s) were also an inspiration for some of its internal spaces.
Its irregular structure was created by maximising the use of the available land. The site is said to be oldest in the city – it was the site of a Saxon fort, a medieval Town Hall, and finally a late Victorian railway cutting. The steps at the side of the building have recreated a historic right of way.
At over 3,000 square metres, Nottingham Contemporary is one of the largest contemporary art centres in the UK. It has four galleries - lit by 132 skylights – a performance and film Space, a Learning room, The Study, The Shop and Café.Bar.Contemporary. The building appears larger on the inside than outside, since much of its north end is sunk into the sandstone cliff that runs the length of the city centre. At the same time it is a remarkably open building: large windows offer direct views from the street into the galleries, shop, café and offices.
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