Tate St Ives

Saint Ives / United Kingdom

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Our major extension to Tate St Ives opened in October 2017. The 1320msq addition extends the original building significantly to include a large contemporary gallery, education spaces, transition spaces and offices.


Situated on a sensitive site in the small, historic town of St Ives on the beautiful Cornish coastline, the original Tate St Ives, designed by Evans and Shalev, opened in 1993. The gallery was built to celebrate the work of the twentieth artists who lived and worked in the town, including Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Through a major refurbishment and the addition of a new building, Tate St Ives now offers twice as much space for visitors to see art.


The new gallery is sunk deep into the cliffs, yet it benefits from strong, coastal natural light from above thanks to the insertion of rooflights. The exterior responds to the vernacular architecture of St Ives and the natural forms of the coastline; the generous space and light within belies the discretion of the building’s external form.


The gallery is a single, column-free, 500m2 volume, equal in size to all five galleries of the original building. Neutral in detail, and with the ability to be configured into multiple arrangements of six smaller galleries, it is designed to accommodate the many and varied practices of contemporary art.


The first exhibition in the new space, pictured here, was a solo show by contemporary sculptor Rebecca Warren, 'All that heaven allows'.


The constraint of the architectural language relaxed when we turned to the roof construction. From the beginning, we were concerned to design a building which answered the needs of Tate but also felt grounded in its rural, coastal setting. The fishing lofts adopted by the St Ives artists in the 1940s were rough constructions in stone with exposed timber joists for their ceilings. These have been adapted into concrete beams to span the 16.5m width of the gallery. Above these sit six large light chambers diffusing the beautiful light of St Ives which brought the artists here a century ago. The entire roof construction is in in-situ cast concrete, continuing the rough no-nonsense sensibility of St Ives.


The exposed roof and the light chambers of the submerged gallery provided an opportunity for us to create an additional element to the project that was not in the brief. The roof is treated as a continuation of the landscape of the Cornish coastline. A gentle set of stairs and public spaces weave between the elevated granite volumes of the light chambers amid Cornish wildflowers, meeting an existing path which leads to the sea.


An intrinsic element of our brief, crucial to the smooth function of Tate’s operations, was to provide compact, efficient art handling and staff accommodation. As art works arrive at the top of the site, it was required that delivery be accommodated in a building which sits at this level; this modest construction is the only element of the project which is visible within the town.


In reference to the history of ceramicists in St Ives, such as Bernard Leach, the building is clad in shiplapped ceramic tiles, handmade by Froyle Tiles. Their clay is pale sandy yellow, with blue and green glazes that capture the ever-changing Cornish weather and blend into the hues of the sea beyond.

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    Our major extension to Tate St Ives opened in October 2017. The 1320msq addition extends the original building significantly to include a large contemporary gallery, education spaces, transition spaces and offices. Situated on a sensitive site in the small, historic town of St Ives on the beautiful Cornish coastline, the original Tate St Ives, designed by Evans and Shalev, opened in 1993. The gallery was built to celebrate the work of the twentieth artists who lived and worked in the town,...

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