Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Photographers' Gallery, by O'Donnell & Tuomey

O’Donnell & Tuomey’s warehouse conversion for the Photographers’ Gallery opens up a series of complex spaces and multiple skins, against a dramatic inner London streetscape
We were talking about the day that Oxford Street cracked,” says John Tuomey. “What happened when London’s tectonic plates shifted and this great geological rift appeared.”
He is not recounting an experimental slam poetry event, nor an evening of a more psychedelic kind, but a conversation with the planners at Westminster City Council. “Everybody’s got a bit of poetry in them,” he twinkles. “You just have to reach it.”
And reach it he and his partner, Sheila O’Donnell, clearly did, for the result of these conversations about plates and fissures now stands on the corner of Ramillies Street in central London, in the form of a £3.6 million new home for the Photographers’ Gallery.
The rift in question is the level change between the busiest shopping street in Europe and the quiet back-of-house world that lies to the south down a set of steps, accessed through what can now only be read as a momentous crevasse separating Dorothy Perkins and Next.
“We always thought this change in level made it feel like a crack in the system, a shift to another world,” says O’Donnell, as we walk down what she describes as the crossroads where Oxford Street meets Soho, a short-cut route of service entrances and back doors. A recent public realm improvement by the council has seen it partially tidied, with new granite paving and star-shaped benches, and the arrival of the gallery will no doubt see this treatment extended further down the street — although it would be a shame if its slightly seedy air was completely obliterated, removing the sense of discovery.
Read the full article here
Originally published in BD, 23 May 2012