Owen Hopkins has left the Soane Museum to become the first director of Newcastle University’s new Terry Farrell-backed hub for architecture and cities
The curator, writer and architectural historian was chosen following an open application process for the role to manage the new venue’s public programme, which responds to Farrell’s vision for every city to have its own ‘urban room’.
The £4 million complex – dubbed the Sir Terry Farrell Building – will provide a new hub for exhibitions and events and will feature an incubator space for emerging local businesses and items from Farrell’s archive. Planned to open in winter 2021, the centre will occupy a former late-19th century department store close to the university’s architecture school.
The project has been enabled by a £1 million donation from Farrell who attended the university at the start of his career in the 1950s and was recently made a visiting professor. The idea of creating new ‘urban rooms’ in UK cities was one of several recommendations contained in the 2014 Farrell Review of architecture.
Hopkins was senior curator of exhibitions and education at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London and was previously architecture programme curator at the Royal Academy of Arts. He said: ‘I am delighted to be joining the team at such an exciting moment in the centre’s development.
‘I am passionate about engaging people with architecture and cities – their past, present and future – through programmes of all type and scales. This new centre has the potential to play a transformative role in the key debates about architecture and planning in Newcastle, the UK and globally, and I am honoured to be leading it at this critical stage.’
Adam Sharr – head of Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape – said: ‘We are delighted that Owen Hopkins will be joining us. His extensive track record as a curator and writer – and acknowledged experience in provoking, educating and inspiring audiences – will establish our new centre on the soundest footing, ready to promote exciting programmes, and build the centre’s profile internationally, nationally, and locally.’
Hopkins will now work with the building’s design team – Elliott Architects and Space Architects – to develop the concept for the new venue on Eldon Place. Along with £1 million for the new centre, Farrell also donated his professional archive, containing thousands of models, drawings, papers and diaries from six decades of practice.
Farrell said: ‘I am so pleased that Owen has been appointed Director of the Farrell Centre. He is just the right fit and I am confident that his many talents will be put to good use at the centre in the years to come.
‘This project and all it represents is as important to me as anything I have ever embarked upon, and I am delighted that we have such an impressive individual to lead its development from the outset.’
Hopkins will now work with the building’s design team – Elliott Architects and Space Architects – to develop the concept for the new venue on Eldon Place