Caruso St John Architects

1995–2000
Location: Walsall, UK
Client: Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council
Project Status: Built

The New Art Gallery is the home of the Garman Ryan Collection, and the display of the collection forms the core of the hugely energetic artistic and educational programme for the building. This was the first major public building to be built in Walsall for many years, in a region which generally has seen very little public investment. The client conceived the building as a model of quality and good practice, which could act as a central figure within the town, around which future regeneration of a former industrial wharf area to the east of the town centre could evolve.

The new building is arranged as a tower, giving it a prominence and force of character which refers to the austere and tough architecture of the warehouses and factories around the site. It contains galleries for temporary exhibitions and events, in addition to the galleries for the permanent collection, extensive education facilities, conference room and restaurant, arranged on a number of floors connected by lifts and circuitous stairs. The gallery has an unusually wide range of atmospheres for a public building, evoking the pleasurable generosity of a big house.

The facades of the tower are clad in pale terracotta tiles, whose scale diminishes towards the top of the building. The tiles wrap and disguise the complexity of the interior like the feathers of a bird.