Designed by internationally acclaimed architect David Chipperfield, winner of the 2007 RIBA Stirling Prize and RIBA Gold Medal for Architecture, Margate’s new Turner Contemporary gallery is one of the largest and most important spaces for art outside London.
Named after the artist JMW Turner, who spent much time painting in the area, the gallery will always have examples of his work on display alongside revolving exhibitions from international artists. This new national monument of a building is located on the seafront, on the site of a guesthouse where Turner used to stay.
Having been appointed in 2006 to the project, David Chipperfield Architects’ main goal was to develop something that resembled an artist’s studio rather than a traditional gallery, while using the location’s sea views as inspiration for the extensive use of broad windows and skylights.
‘We developed the design to take maximum advantage of such a dramatic setting with its extraordinary views,’ says Chipperfield. ‘Our building looks out to the sea, connects itself to the town and captures the same unique light that inspired Turner.’
Positioned on a plinth to protect it against flooding, the building consists of six interlocking rectangular forms and has a strong sculptural presence.
The ground floor houses a double-height gallery and a large events space with an external terrace. The first floor is also gallery space but offers a ‘learning space’ as well, and sees northern light flowing through the entire floor through windows and skylights.
Lighting was an important element for Chipperfield after he stated he wanted to recreate the type of natural lighting that Turner himself would have enjoyed while painting in this area.
The behind-the-scenes elements to the gallery – offices and storage – are positioned at the back-of-house on both floors, along with workshop space.
‘The brilliant thing about Turner Contemporary is that it has given people hope that things are going to change here and also has put Margate back on the map,’ said artist Tracey Emin, who grew up in the Kent seaside town and who opened the gallery alongside musician Jools Holland on 16 April.
This article was first published in fx Magazine.