Creating RIBA's first gallery outside of London
RIBA North is a new architecture centre for the North of England, situated within the RIBA awarding winning Mann Island mixed use development on Liverpool’s waterfront. The centre, designed by Matt Brook, who also designed Mann Island, contains, among other things, the RIBA’s first museum standard gallery outside of London, showcasing its world-class collection of drawings, photographs and models.
Accessed via the covered glazed winter garden within the Mann Island complex, RIBA North sits within the central block.
A red corian spine wall accented with shadow gap detailing and recessed lighting, articulates the project’s volumetric spine, linking the winter garden with the double height entrance lobby and adjoining mezzanine level; creating a visual connection between spaces whilst also defining the kitchen and ordering the vertical circulation.
Within the winter garden, the wall manifests itself as a freestanding totem branded ‘RIBA North’; this functions as a striking piece of signage sculpture, its colour and orthogonal form delivering a dramatic counterpoint to Mann Island’s black aesthetic and the geometry of the two trapezoidal blocks.
Inside, the double height entrance lobby sets the scene, with three carefully crafted compositions: the stairwell to left, courtesy of the carved opening in the spine wall; the café and shop area directly ahead; and the mezzanine level above.
Integral to the stair design is the granite’s heft, which generates a sense of permanence underfoot, while the slender stainless steel nosing detail complements the material’s colour, depth and texture, as does the deep shadow gap detail to the outer stair edges.
Within this dynamic, the structural clarity of the stainless steel balustrade provides an elegant interface between the granite stairs and the spine wall.
The balustrade itself, along with the internal and external door handles and all gallery and WC ironmongery have been designed to create a dialogue and visual unity between the details throughout the centre.
Upstairs the museum standard gallery takes centre stage. A second, smaller gallery - which will also be used for lectures and debates, seating up to 80 people – defines the operation’s east facing side. These two galleries in turn together with the full height atrium and spine wall demarcate a central presentation area which will accommodate a wide range of public facing activities, hence the inclusion of two substantial plasma screen installations set flush in its two long walls flanking a free standing interactive city model.
On the south facing side of the complex an open-plan office, with full height glazing, overlooks Liverpool’s Canning Dock; while on the west facing side, two meetings rooms and a well-sized conference suite enjoy good views of Mann Island’s public realm.
The display walls within the galleries are bounded by a continuous shadow gap and recessed lighting defining the display walls as a continuous ribbon within the space. This detail allows for flexibility of the gallery exhibitions and enables the display wall ‘ribbons’ to be extended into the space whilst easily maintaining continuity of the ceiling and key detailing.
From an architectural perspective this is a really important project. It is a first in terms of being a public facing centre which will really drive the conversation about the importance of the built environment and how it impacts on people’s lives.