Updated: Sep 24, 2019
I’m a country boy now, even though London has a huge place in my heart. On the occasions I do need to travel up to the capital, I always admire the Newport Street Gallery (NSG) as the train rolls past it. I admire it objectively as the stunning building that it is, but I love it even more as it is Manor Bottom’s little sibling.
Both were designed by architects Caruso St John, Manor Bottom being their humble second ever project, Newport Street Gallery being their Stirling Prize winning moment of glory (among many others!). This time rather than just roll by I thought I’d pay a visit to the younger sibling and look for similarities between the two.
Funnily, both were commissioned by artists: Manor Bottom by Mai Thomas, NSG by Damien Hirst to share his art collection with the public (you can read about him and buy his artwork at Artsy). I think the quality seen by the artist's eye is perhaps quite important as to what they wanted from the commission, and the architects were clearly thinking on the same lines, and in fact above and beyond! Both buildings draw you in at first sight with their simple strong lines, both seamlessly combine the old and new, both fully understand the uses of the buildings, past and present, and in places both have very playful features. Also both make real use of the outside, obvious to do in the country but harder in the city – I love the way the huge window in the north end of NSG frames the tree on Ingram Close.
So, I strolled round, ignoring the art, to the bemusement of the security, snapping the roofs and stairwells. And you know what, was it just me or did it somehow feel familiar? These building really are sibling and I’m sure I felt it. As I left, I looked back and promised I’d say ‘hello!’ from little sibling to big. He misses you NSG, you know! He wonders what the big city is like!