6a architects has released the first images of its long-awaited refurbishment and extension of Milton Keynes’ art gallery
The gallery reopens on 16 March with an exhibition inspired by the building’s context of Milton Keynes, The Lie of the Land, which will run until 26 May.
Located at the top of Midsummer Boulevard, next to Milton Keynes Theatre and adjacent to Campbell Park, the original MK Gallery was built in the late 1990s. 6a’s reconfiguration has retained the existing building and added to it, doubling the gallery space. The completed development now provides five exhibition galleries totalling 500m², in addition to a large learning studio and the ‘Sky Room’, a flexible auditorium with views over the countryside.
Inspired by Derek Walker’s planned 1960s grid for the city, the addition to the gallery is clad in corrugated polished stainless steel, the simple contrasting geometry between ‘square’ and ’circle’ a continuous theme throughout. Outside, the buildings become a playscape, garden and sculpture park, part of a new ‘City Club’ of public spaces around the gallery – created in collaboration with artists Gareth Jones, Nils Norman and graphic designer Mark El-khatib.
A Changing Places facility has been designed in – one of only two such facilities in central Milton Keynes – and is part of the gallery’s long-term programme for people with disabilities.
The development brings both contemporary and historical art together in a programme of exhibitions, as well as hosting free film, music, performance, workshops and family events. Curated by MK Gallery director Anthony Spira with Sam Jacob, Claire Louise Staunton, Fay Blanchard, 6a’s Tom Emerson, Gareth Jones and Niall Hobhouse, the opening exhibition is spread over the five new galleries. The exhibition, designed as a ’cabinet of curiosities’, aims to create a playful context for Milton Keynes, drawing upon pieces relating to design, social history and architecture, dating from the 18th century.
05. mk gallery. photo 6a
Our ambition has been to create a building where the art centre and the social spaces come together in what we believe is a rare example of collective authorship across disciplines, where art, architecture and design are interchangeable. In doing so, we are proposing a new kind of accessible art centre, which pays tribute to and tells the story of Milton Keynes, fully engaged with playful ways of seeing and definitely open to all.
Anthony Spira, director, MK Gallery
11. mk gallery. photo 6a.
Completion March 2019
Architect 6a Architects
Client MK Gallery
Main contractor Bowmer & Kirkland
Project manager Jackson Coles
Structural engineer Momentum
Environmental engineer Max Fordham