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First images of Tim Ronalds’ contest-winning Quentin Blake Centre unveiled

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Images showing Tim Ronalds Architects’ competition-winning proposal for new £8 million home for the House of Illustration in Islington, north London, have been revealed

The practice was selected ahead of five rival shortlisted teams to win the commission to design a 1,000m² home for the museum in April. More than 200 teams expressed an interest in the contest and 75 completed selection questionnaires were returned.

The House of Illustration was founded by the illustrator Quentin Blake in 2014 and is currently based in ‘no longer fit for purpose’ premises in Granary Square, King’s Cross. It will be renamed the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration when it relocates.

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.

Olivia Ahmad, artistic director of House of Illustration said: ‘We are thrilled to be embarking on a project that will secure a permanent and much-needed public centre for illustration and graphics in the UK and a home for Sir Quentin’s archive.

‘We look forward to expanding and developing our pioneering work that explores the importance of graphic art in our lives, supports emerging creators and empowers people of all ages to use visual communication. We are committed to working with our local communities and societies, Islington Borough Council, Thames Water and our sector to create a dynamic creative space that welcomes all.’

Practice director Tim Ronalds said: ‘When working with old buildings, we think most about the experience of buildings, the sense of time and memory they contain – the combination of new work and old buildings can be magical. We are thrilled to be working with House of Illustration. New River Head is an important historic site, and the Engine House a fascinating and atmospheric building. The ingredients are there to make a new cultural space of great significance.’

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 in a building erected in 1914-15 for that purpose to designs by Herbert Austen Hall. It 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 venue is currently closed due to the government’s ongoing Coronavirus lockdown and will not reopen so it can focus its resources on fundraising for the new headquarters instead.

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 Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration by Tim Ronalds Architects

The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration by Tim Ronalds Architects

The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration by Tim Ronalds Architects

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It's quite demure, but not as refined as Fobart's Kettle's Yard or Caruso St.John's Soane's museum - was expecting something a bit more special, I think

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