Tim Ronalds Architects has won a design competition for new home for the House of Illustration inside a complex of historic buildings in Islington, north London
The practice was selected ahead of five rival shortlisted teams to win the commission to design a 1,000m² home for the museum. 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 a ‘no longer 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.
In a statement, the museum said: ‘House of Illustration has recently acquired the long leasehold interest in a site at New River Head in the London Borough of Islington. This provides a remarkable opportunity to create a sustainable home for itself through the sympathetic development of a series of historically significant buildings that have played a vital part in London’s growth.
‘House of Illustration has just appointed London-based Tim Ronalds Architects to develop the site.’
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.
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.
Competition site: New River Head, Islington
Source: Image by Julian Osley
Statement by House of Illustration
House of Illustration is the UK’s only public art gallery and education space dedicated to illustration and graphics.
The gallery is the brainchild of Quentin Blake. Since 2014 its exhibitions, education and events programmes have reached more than 1 million people in the UK and internationally.
House of Illustration currently leases space in a building at 2 Granary Square, Kings Cross, London N1, which provides three galleries, a learning studio, administrative offices and support areas.
However, this present space is no longer fit for purpose, and therefore House of Illustration has acquired a site that will become a permanent home and will allow it to better serve its audiences and meet its charitable aims.
House of Illustration has recently acquired the long leasehold interest in a site at New River Head in the London Borough of Islington. This provides a remarkable opportunity to create a sustainable home for itself through the sympathetic development of a series of historically significant buildings that have played a vital part in London’s growth.
House of Illustration has just appointed London-based Tim Ronalds Architects to develop the site.
More details on the project will be announced in due course.