Witherford Watson Mann Architects’s House of Illustration, the world’s first public gallery and education space dedicated to illustration, has opened in Granary Square, Kings Cross.
Set within a former Victorian office building beside Central St Martins, Witherford Watson Mann Architects infuse the galleries with a spirit of hospitality, intimacy and personality.
The galleries have been constructed as a suite of rooms, with new wall and ceiling linings controlling daylight, and creating a variety of scales and atmospheres. The rooms are linked through deep thresholds at the corners, making the galleries a series of discrete but connected experiences.
The rooms are distinctive for their double enclosure, both contemporary and Victorian. This is visible in the daylight washing across the high ceilings of the original rooms, in the framing of the moulded doorways in new deep joinery linings, and in the new window shutters giving glimpses of the large original sash windows. The scale and atmosphere evoke a house as much as a gallery – a house of illustration.
The new rooms also form gallery spaces to the exterior, shallow spaces where the exhibition spills out as if in a shop window, presenting the world of illustration to the wider Kings Cross site. In the opening show, Quentin Blake’s birds float from the inside to the outside through the book-like shutters.
In addition to the dedicated gallery spaces, the architects have created an education studio, a shop, offices, and a flexible gallery and events space. Like the galleries, these spaces are versatile suites of rooms, rather than stand-alone spaces.
The House of Illustration is the first completed project by Witherford Watson Mann Architects since their 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize win, for their exquisitely crafted transformation of Astley Castle.
The new gallery will become a place for visitors to experience exhibitions, events, illustrators’ residencies and education and will open to the public on July 2nd, with the exhibition ‘Inside Stories’ by Sir Quentin Blake.
Project Title: House of Illustration
Architect: Witherford Watson Mann Architects
Client: House of Illustration
QS: Jackson Coles
Contractor: REM Projects (Interiors) Ltd.
Structural engineer: Price & Myers
M&E engineer: P3R Engineers
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Notes to editors
Witherford Watson Mann Architects:
Witherford Watson Mann are architects and urban designers. Established in 2001, they make buildings that are durable and generous, responding to unconventional institutions and historically layered sites.
Completed buildings include Amnesty International UK headquarters and the Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Arts Council England Northwest office in Manchester, and Astley Castle, Warwickshire. The practice has worked since the beginning on the transformation of the city, with projects including Bankside Urban Forest and collaboration on the Olympic Legacy Masterplan.
The House of Illustration
The House of Illustration was set up as a charity in 2002 by a group of the UK’s leading illustrators and with the support of a strong and committed board of trustees, including Sir Quentin Blake, Lauren Child, and Sir Christopher Frayling.
House of Illustration is already a vibrant, independent arts organisation which reaches a wide ranging audience through touring exhibitions, international competitions and a pioneering education programme which uses illustration to support creative, literacy and communication skills in primary schools in London.
House of Illustration will be based in 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross, a building it will share with the Art Fund. Award-winning architects Witherford Watson Mann has been appointed to design the interior.
House of Illustration is funded via support from some of the UK’s leading trusts and foundations, individual donations and self-generated income.