(lenka míková) The young London-based studio of 6a architects proves with its latest implemented project that space can be treated in a different way than conservation or simply contrasting new and old features. Raven Row tells its story by means of space, materials, and their structure.
The new non-profit centre for contemporary art, entitled Raven Row (which is the original name of today’s Artillery lane), is located in the London quarter of Spitalfields and occupies two buildings of silk merchants that burnt down in 1972. The architects were so impressed by the photos of the destroyed houses that they decided to imbed the memory of the fire into the new look of the house, applying the traditional Japanese method of wood-burning onto the exterior.
Unlike the historical street facade from the 1750s, the rear side of the building is faced with panels made from corroding tin with a texture reminiscent of burnt wood. Burnt planks also create the cladding of air shafts in the rear part of the house, where two new exhibition rooms were built in place of a failed extension from the 1970s. The exhibition rooms are imbedded half a meter below street level.
The gallery also encapsulates the first three floors of both houses, which are interconnected on every floor. However, the exhibition space does not look like a white cube, but radiates with a homely atmosphere. The exhibition is located in individual rooms with rococo style stucco decorations, fireplaces, and massive wooden floors. The third and fourth floors consist of offices, two apartments, and a studio.
Even though the centre would like to focus on experimental arts and new media, the opening exhibition took the form of a retrospective exhibition of Ray Johnson, the American representative of non-commercial tendencies in pop art, entitled Please add to & return. These constantly adjusted collages (some of them over the course of decades) with exactly dated interventions symptomatically correspond with the overall architectural concept of the new arts centre. “Raven Row was first constructed in 1754 and subsequently added to, converted, neglected, damaged, and repaired over two and a half centuries,” says Tom Emerson of 6a Architects. “The latest layer weaves itself through the buildings, informed by their history and, in turn, transforms them.”
Photo: David Grandorge