SIRS Architects have converted a former industrial building in London’s East End into Gilbert & George’s art foundation, breathing new life into the historic fabric of the area and seeking to immerse visitors in the unique realm of Gilbert & George.
The Gilbert & George Centre aims to become a leading cultural institution in London and a hub for research and scholarship on the art of Gilbert & George, with a commitment to accessibility and free entry for all members of the community.
The Centre can be found on the slender 18th century Heneage Street, just a stone's throw from Gilbert & George's current home and studio on Fournier Street and has been thoughtfully converted from an early 19th century former brewery building.
The restoration of the building has preserved many of its original features, some of which can be seen in a welcoming reception area featuring handcrafted furniture and cast-iron components. By combining historical and contemporary elements, the design team’s philosophy honours the building's industrial past, aligning with the artists' vision of architectural spaces, heritage and art display.
Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by a wrought-iron gate designed by the artists themselves before entering through a secluded, cobbled courtyard. A dimly lit reception area features Palco Low Voltage floodlights suspended from its restored timber ceiling, leading visitors to three exhibition spaces of varying scale and atmosphere, tailored to suit the the artists' large-scale creations. The Centre also features a film pavilion, caretaker apartment and service areas.
The galleries’ lighting design by Arup creates an adaptable lighting setup through a bespoke stretch ceiling providing artificial low light, supplemented by a track projectors system to offer artists flexibility of creating ever-changing exhibitions with different lighting atmospheres. The cutting-edge lighting system was tailor-made for Gilbert & George's large-scale pictures, but can equally be re-configured for more conventional lighting scenarios when required.
iGuzzini illuminazione collaborated on the lighting design by supplying bespoke projectors to illuminate both reception and exhibition areas, all fitted with Casambi Bluetooth control technology.
The Palco Main Voltage projectors are installed on a recessed track in the basement and ground floor galleries complementing the overall low ambience volume of light provided by the stretch ceilings and providing specific accents to the artworks on display.
The first floor gallery features Palco luminaires on a bespoke lighting track, suspended from the vaulted timber ceiling and also providing concealed Led uplights.
The Palco are provided with special drivers capable of dimming to very low levels, especially suited for artworks sensitive to light exposure, such as drawings on paper or photographic prints.
A special intervention was also made on the Palco Wall Washer optics: given the galleries high ceilings, Arup and the architect decided to reduce the lighting on the upper wall sections, achieving an improved artwork illumination while maintaining a good uniformity and gentle light levels. To achieve this, the projectors were equipped with a special combination of optical accessories selected by the design team following several 1:1 mock ups.
The building's design prioritises the sustainable use of energy, water and material resources through a series of active and passive design principles, such as the use of a digital Building Management System, LED lighting with presence detection and automatic control, an optimised ventilation system, harvested rainwater for courtyard irrigation, photocatalytic paints, permeable courtyard paving as well as in-house art storage.
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