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Rafael Viñoly finally completes 'Golden Banana'

[First look + project data] Rafael Viñoly Architects has finally taken the wraps off its £28.2 million Firstsite visual arts museum in Colchester, Essex

The 3,200m² curved building - dubbed the ‘Golden Banana’ - has suffered three years of delays and costs overruns because of a major client-contractor dispute.

Due to open to the public on Sunday (25 September), the steel frame and copper aluminum alloy-clad building sits on the site of a Scheduled Ancient Monument which features the remains of the city’s original Roman Wall.

The restored Berryfield Roman Mosaic dates from circa AD200 and was once part of a Roman townhouse lies at the heart of the building.

To protect the archaeological remains below, the entire scheme was constructed on a concrete raft foundation built without deep excavations.

The building will house the offices of arts organisation Firstsite along with a collection of Latin American art owned by the University of Essex.

The gallery’s opening Camulodunum exhibition is named after the Roman name for Colchester which was a tribute to the Celtic war god Camulos and will celebrate the cultural and artistic heritage of the area.  

Firstsite director Katherine Woodsaid: ‘I am proud to be opening our spectacular new building – designed by one of the world’s great architects, Rafael Viñoly, for the people of Colchester.

‘So much more than a beautiful gallery attracting art lovers from all over the country, I believe firstsite will be at an important intersection between the community and artists, providing inspiration and encouragement to everyone to explore, create, relax and have fun.’


Project data

Project: Firstsite
Location: Colchester, England
Schedule: Competition 2003; Construction 2006-2011; Opening 25 September, 2011
roject cost: £28.2 million
Client:Colchester Borough Council; Colchester, Essex

Building details:
Floor area:
Number of floors: One
Main programmes: Galleries, education and seminar rooms, resource centre, auditorium, lobby, retail, restaurant, kitchen, administrative offices, meeting rooms

Project leadership:
Capital partners:
Arts Council England; Essex County Council; Colchester Borough Council; East of England Development Agency; Firstsite
Project director: Jackson Coles
Construction and cost management: Mace, London
Architect: Rafael Viñoly; Principal and Lead Designer; Rafael Viñoly Architects PC; London
Roofing, cladding and windows: Richardson Roofing
Glazed wall: Firman
Floors and specialist joinery: Ruddy
Mechanical & Electrical: Mitie
Drywall: Fireclad
Painting & decorating: Lucas
Architectural ironmongery: Glazzard
External works: PJ Carey
Landscaping: Kinnear Landscape Architects
Structural engineer: Adams Kara Taylor, London
Mechanical / HVAC engineer: Arup, London
Electrical engineer: Arup, London



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