City & Guilds of London Art School on course for a successful future after the completion of Phase 2 of its Masterplan - a new entrance and atrium The completion of Phase 2 of its Masterplan, the building of a new entrance and atrium, has transformed City & Guilds of London Art School, one of the only independent educational institutions of its kind in the UK.
In 2007 the Art School found itself having to address the restrictions of its historic buildings and facilities on Kennington Park Road, where it has been based since 1879. A full Options Appraisal was carried out by Alan Higgs Architects, demonstrating that the site’s limitations could be overcome and the Art School’s long term needs and aspirations fulfilled. City & Guilds of London Art School subsequently commissioned the firm to develop a 3-phase Masterplan.
Phase 1, the renovation of the six listed Georgian houses facing Kennington Park Road, was carried out over 6 years using only the Art School summer holidays for construction work. The works were funded entirely from grants and donations raised by the Art School (a not-for-profit organisation with charitable status) from trusts, private donors and other philanthropic sources.
A substantial lead donation from the Hamish Parker Charitable Trust enabled the project team to proceed with Phase 2 -- a pivotal new entrance hall, circulation space and gallery known as the atrium. This gives the Art School the physical ‘heart’ it lacked and allows it to reveal itself in a way it has never been able to in the 138 years it has been on the Kennington site, and also draws attention to the quality of the Grade II-listed Georgian buildings from the rear. Alan Higgs Architects’ design removed piecemeal accretions in, and roofed over, the space between the historic Georgian houses and Victorian fine art studios to the rear. Tall steel stanchions are independent of the historic structures and the glass roof admits maximum light.
City & Guilds of London Art School traces its origins to the Lambeth School of Art, founded in 1854. It formed an affiliation with the City & Guilds of London Institute in 1879, taking its current name in 1938, and has been an independent not-for-profit organisation since 1971.
In its early years the Art School worked closely with industrialists, particularly Henry Doulton, seeking to combine artistic creativity with manufacturing processes. After the Second World War, Restoration and Carving courses were established to provide skills for the restoration of London’s damaged architecture, monuments and treasures. Today the Art School offers degrees at under- and postgraduate level in contemporary Fine Art, Conservation and Historic Carving (in wood and stone), as well as a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design.
The design of the new entrance and atrium was inspired by the covered but partly open, purposeful Victorian buildings for industry, transport and trade. Their robust sense of purpose and timeless, practical materials and details are appropriate to the Art School and refer to its period of establishment and its purpose of bringing art and design education to the booming industries of 19th century London.
Established in 1997, Alan Higgs Architects is a full service architectural practice working in Britain, Australia and Europe on residential, commercial and educational projects. The practice was recently shortlisted in the 2017 RIBA Awards for their work on a private house in North London. In June 2017 the firm’s founder, Alan Higgs, received his PhD from RMIT University.