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Competition: House of Illustration

Competition site: New River Head, Islington
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The House of Illustration has announced a contest to design a permanent home for the museum inside a complex of historic buildings in Islington, north London

Expressions of interest are being sought from architect-led teams wishing to design a 1,000m2 headquarters for the museum, which was founded by the illustrator Quentin Blake in 2014 and is currently based in a ‘not fit for purpose’ premises in Granary Square, King’s Cross.

The project, planned to complete in 2022, will create an exhibition space, offices, foyer, café, storage areas, an auditorium and a viewing platform by restoring and extending a series of historic water pumping structures on a 0.17ha site next to the former Metropolitan Water Board headquarters at New River Head. Up to six teams will be invited to draw up concepts and compete for the estimated £200,000 design contract.

In its brief, the House of Illustration says it has ‘long been seeking a permanent home that would provide the space to enable it to fulfil all aspects of its charitable aims. It has recently purchased the long leasehold interest in a site at New River Head in the London Borough of Islington which provides it with a remarkable opportunity to create a long-term home for itself through the sympathetic development of a series of historically significant buildings (including two that are Grade II listed) which have played a vital part in London’s growth.

‘In order to identify the right architectural practice to assist it securing the necessary consents and in the development of the site, House of Illustration is running a two-stage competition in accordance with the requirements of the OJEU Restricted Notice procedure as set out in Regulation 28 of The Public Contracts Regulations 2015, comprising expressions of interest using the selection questionnaire followed by a shortlisting of no more than six suitable candidates that will be invited to proceed to the invitation to tender stage.’

New River Head is the site of a reservoir created near Rosebery Avenue in the early 17th century to help bring fresh water into the heart of the growing capital. The area later became the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water Board but was converted into residential flats in the early 21st century.

Several historic structures from the historic water works close to Amwell Street remain unused and have now been purchased by the House of Illustration to create a permanent home for the gallery, which currently rents space within the Argent King’s Cross development nearby.

Historic buildings earmarked for the gallery include the Grade II-listed base of a former windmill, a Grade II-listed pump house, a Grade II-listed coal store and another ancillary structure. A publicly accessible viewing deck may also be integrated into the site.

The House of Illustration has 20 staff members and runs an annual programme of exhibitions, events, talks, screenings and debates.

The new complex will feature 350m² of exhibition space, 80m² of storage space, a reception foyer and retail area, a 50-capacity café and kitchen, toilets, offices, a learning studio, artists’ residency space, 100-capacity events area, and a potential observation platform.

The deadline for applications is 2pm on 22 November.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Colin McKenzie
House of Illustration
2 Granary Square

Email: colin.mckenzie@houseofillustration.org.uk

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