The Gilbert & George Centre
Tom Oldham
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct Name
ManufacturersBEGA
24082
77326
12278
59591.1
ManufacturersiGuzzini
Palco
Palco
Palco
ManufacturersLaufen
LAUFEN pro
ManufacturersAllgood
Modric Pull Handle
ManufacturersDolphin Bathrooms
Slimline
ManufacturersGeberit
Sigma 10 Flushplate

Product Spec Sheet
Manufacturers
59591.1, 12278, 77326, 24082 by BEGA
Manufacturers
Palco, Palco, Palco by iGuzzini
Manufacturers
LAUFEN pro by Laufen
Manufacturers
Modric Pull Handle by Allgood
Manufacturers
Slimline by Dolphin Bathrooms
Manufacturers
Sigma 10 Flushplate by Geberit

The Gilbert & George Centre

SIRS Architects as Architects

SIRS Architects have converted a former industrial building in London’s East End into Gilbert & George’s art foundation, breathing new life into the historic fabric of the area and seeking to immerse visitors in the unique realm of Gilbert & George.

 Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre
Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre

History of the area

The East End, located just beyond the boundary of the City of London, has long been a refuge for social minorities and immigrants, shaping a symbiotic yet unequal relationship with the city. Industries such as brewing, textile dyeing, tanning and metalworking, as well as entertainment venues like playhouses, pleasure gardens, circuses and music halls were prohibited within the city walls but thrived in the fringe area, attracting wealthy visitors to an otherwise squalid and overcrowded neighbourhood in the early 18th century. These public spaces became platforms for protest, dissent, religious nonconformism, trade unions, reformists, and revolutionaries. The stark contrast between opulent wealth and grim poverty was captured by Defoe and Dickens and depicted by Hogarth and Dore. Spitalfields was mainly fields until the late 17th century when streets were laid out. 

photo_credit SIRS Architects
SIRS Architects

Site Context

The Gilbert and George Centre can today be found on the slender 18th century Heneage Street, just a stone's throw from Gilbert & George's current home and studio on Fournier Street, which is situated in the Brick Lane and Fournier Street Conservation Area. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by a hand-forged wrought iron gate, designed by the artist duo themselves, before entering through a secluded, cobbled courtyard, featuring a film pavilion that introduces the "World of Gilbert & George”.

 Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre
Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre

" The pair’s decorative wrought-iron gates are also not intended to keep out the public. Far from it: the Gilbert and George Centre, which they have planned for years, is a built representation of their slogan “art for all” and designed as a gift to the community they have lived and worked alongside together for most of their working lives."

Vanessa Thorpe for The Guardian: "Most amusing: Gilbert and George welcome the public to their own gallery."  

 Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre
Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre

Design Approach
The brief required a challenging approach to create sufficient space for the Centre's transformation into a charitable art foundation on a highly restricted site. A new basement level was constructed under the building’s pre-existing footprint and a new above-ground side extension was added. The aim was to complement the historic brewery with a discrete design that is exciting in its details and yet simple to behold with all moving parts concealed from the visitor. 

photo_credit Tom Oldham
Tom Oldham

Building Conversion

The converted building now hosts three exhibition spaces of different scale and feel providing a discrete setting for the artists' large-scale creations, a film room pavilion, a reception area, extensive art storage facilities, service areas and a separate caretaker’s apartment. The Centre has been thoughtfully converted and restored from an early 19th century former brewery building, most recently in residential use. By combining preserved, restored and contemporary elements, the project’s design philosophy honours the building's industrial past and aligns with the artists’ vision of architectural heritage, design and art display.

 Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre
Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre

Design Innovation
A top down construction methodology with mini-piles was adopted allowing construction work to proceed both above and below ground simultaneously, while striking the perimeter of 37 neighbouring parties, forming one of the UK’s largest party-wall awards at the time. Existing brick walls were supported on permanent steel stools allowing the ground floor slab to be formed around them without any temporary props or needles. A concealed internal stability structure provides lateral support to the brewery’s original walls and trusses, while a fire-engineering scheme was implemented to remove the need for sprinklers and achieve an open public stairwell. External insulation in recycled glass was used as wall shuttering for the new basement retention walls along the 57 perimeter underpins. Cutting edge lighting with bespoke luminaires and concealed light boxes can simulate daylight and a wide range of lighting scenarios. 

photo_credit Tom Oldham
Tom Oldham

Environmental Sustainability
The project’s design considers the sustainability of the building in its broadest sense, by integrating environmentally conscious features. These include sustainable use of energy, water and material resources, as well as socio-economic and whole lifecycle considerations. The project applied various active and passive design principles to maximise energy efficiency, minimise energy consumption, promote the conservation of energy wherever possible and minimise flooding and overheating risks. 

Passive design measures include a high thermal mass, thermal performance and airtightness of the building envelope, reduced UV and solar radiation admittance to prevent heat loss and to also protect artworks from fading. To contribute to a sustainable building operation, a range of active design principles were adopted, including the use of a digital BMS system with weather compensation, low-energy LED lighting with presence detection and automated control, photocatalytic paints, re-circulated ventilation, antimicrobial surfaces, the use of harvested rainwater for horticultural irrigation in addition to in-house art storage facilities to reduce the impact of shipping. The green courtyard features new trees and 26 types of plants to form its own ecosystem, increase biodiversity and facilitate carbon-capturing, as well as support sustainable urban drainage and prevent flooding with permeable paving.

photo_credit Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre
Prudence Cuming © The Gilbert & George Centre

Retrofit and Material Re-use
The scheme was designed with the objective to reduce the demolition extent to a minimum in favour of converting and retrofitting the existing building fabric. Where possible, re-used site materials were re-installed (ex. windows, slates, cobbles, brickwork, floorboards, timber joists etc). When additional materials were required, re-cycled materials were selected such as recycled gypsum boards for internal wall/ceiling linings, recycled glass insulation, reclaimed brickwork and roof slates. New construction components were sourced from local and natural materials (FSC certified English oak, Welsh Slate, London Clay Brickwork, Portland Stone, Scottish pebbles etc), installed by local craftsmen and companies to minimise the associated transport impact. Re-usable modular shuttering was used to cast concrete slabs to reduce waste. Construction waste was separated by materials to improve recycling rate during disposal.

photo_credit SIRS Architects
SIRS Architects

Inclusivity and Longevity
The Gilbert & George Centre is committed to being accessible to everyone, of all abilities and aims to be easy and safe for everyone to use. The design prioritises the health and wellbeing of all users of the environment. The barrier-free galleries have been designed with great adaptability and longevity in mind (access, layout, lighting, controls, build-ups, materials, services considerations etc) to be able to accommodate ever-changing exhibition displays and facilitate a sustainable long-life future of a living building.

photo_credit Nic Serpell-Rand © The Gilbert & George Centre
Nic Serpell-Rand © The Gilbert & George Centre

Social and cultural placemaking
Spitalfields has been Gilbert & George’s home and subject since the mid 1960s. As ultimate fulfilment of the artists "Art for All" ethos and a gift to the public, the Centre aims to become a leading cultural institution and a hub for research and scholarship, committed to accessibility and free admission for all members of the community. Providing a permanent home for an unrivalled artistic legacy and welcoming visitors from across the globe, the registered charity aims to foster public art education and work with community and education groups to ensure a broad demographic is engaged with. As part of the community engagement plan the Centre collaborates with local small businesses to ensure the neighbouring area will benefit from the new cultural audience. 

photo_credit Nic Serpell-Rand © The Gilbert & George Centre
Nic Serpell-Rand © The Gilbert & George Centre

The Centre welcomed over 20,000 visitors during its first three opening months and was featured on major news outlets across the globe.

 

 

 

Project Spotlight
Product Spotlight
News
Design of new CIA Conad HQ by tissellistudioarchitetti resists orthogonality and symmetry
21 Jun 2024 News
Design of new CIA Conad HQ by tissellistudioarchitetti resists orthogonality and symmetry

Italian architectural studio tissellistudioarchitetti has designed the Sidera building as a new head... More

Compelling design for Jadgal School by Daaz engages a rural Iranian village
21 Jun 2024 News
Compelling design for Jadgal School by Daaz engages a rural Iranian village

Located in Seyedbar-Jadgal village in Southern Iran, the Jadgal School by Daaz was commissioned afte... More

Dirk Peters, Cristiana Catino, Javier López and Monica Arango join Archello Awards 2024 jury
21 Jun 2024 Archello Awards
Dirk Peters, Cristiana Catino, Javier López and Monica Arango join Archello Awards 2024 jury

Dirk Peters, Cristiana Catino, Javier López and Monica Arango have been announced as Archello... More

UNStudio completes Munich residential building with versatile plug-in partition and furniture system
20 Jun 2024 News
UNStudio completes Munich residential building with versatile plug-in partition and furniture system

International architecture and design practice UNStudio has recently completed the “Van B&rdqu... More

ZAV Architects leverages the “grandmother’s” circular economy approach in design of Dr. Beski Science Foundation
19 Jun 2024 News
ZAV Architects leverages the “grandmother’s” circular economy approach in design of Dr. Beski Science Foundation

Iranian architectural office ZAV Architects features in Archello’s 25 best architecture firms... More

Hyperboloid Green Ark pavilion forms heart of Meise Botanic Garden greenhouse complex
19 Jun 2024 News
Hyperboloid Green Ark pavilion forms heart of Meise Botanic Garden greenhouse complex

Meise Botanic Garden, one of the world's largest botanical gardens, recently inaugurated the Green A... More

Six Bricolage Houses: An inventive model for urban renewal and housing design in Nantou, Shenzhen
18 Jun 2024 News
Six Bricolage Houses: An inventive model for urban renewal and housing design in Nantou, Shenzhen

ARCity Office embarked on a project that would establish a new typology of “bricolage architec... More

BYRÓ architekti’s charred wood-clad garden pavilion in Prague reimagines the mundane garden shed
17 Jun 2024 News
BYRÓ architekti’s charred wood-clad garden pavilion in Prague reimagines the mundane garden shed

Prague-based BYRÓ architekti has completed a small and contemporary charred wood-clad garden... More