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Reiach and Hall's art 'beacon'

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Reiach and Hall Architects has revealed a new £2.4 million addition to the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney. The centre currently occupies two early 19th-century buildings - a house on Victoria Street and stone warehouse on one of the town's many piers - which were renovated in 1978 by Kate Heron and Levitt Bernstein Associates. The centre was founded to display an important collection of Modernist British art (Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, etc), and for temporary exhibitions.

Reiach and Hall's building links the Victoria Street house - now with expanded frontage - to the former warehouse via a connecting spine, with the original galleries opening off it to the north and new ones to the south. The latter will be mostly used for the temporary shows, allowing all of the permanent collection (101 works) to be displayed in the warehouse. Administrative facilities in the Victoria Street house will be enhanced, as will its scope as a cultural meeting place.

'We see the original conversion as part of the collection and have tried to keep it intact, 'said Reiach and Hall design director Neil Gillespie.'The form of the new addition has been abstracted from the pitched roof dwellings nearby.We want to retain that domestic scale but at the same time give a certain gravity to suggest that it's a cultural building.'

This should be helped by the proposed external finish of black patinated zinc - a reference to the tarring seen in vernacular architecture of the Stromness area.The facade is ribbed so, from an oblique angle, the building looks solid, but its vertical slits of glazing become evident face-on.At night, said Gillespie, 'it should glow like a subtle beacon'.

The addition forms part of a £4.2 million initiative for the development of the Pier Art Centre.

Bids are being made to the Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund for £3.2 million, while the centre aims to raise £500,000 itself.

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