Hid­den trea­sure

The ar­chi­tect be­hind the new Tate St Ives

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENTS -

IN 1993, A NEW BUILD­ING opened in St Ives whose busi­ness was hard to iden­tify. Where once there had been a gas­works fac­ing Porth­meor Beach, now there was an ebul­lient dou­ble-height ro­tunda, which looked some­thing like the en­trance to a 1930s cin­ema. In­side was am­phithe­atre-style seat­ing made in the lo­cal stone. One floor up, a curved cor­ri­dor wrapped round it. This was the new Tate St Ives, a build­ing de­signed by the lo­cal part­ner­ship of David Shalev and El­dred Evans, who had taken the re­gion by storm in 1984 with their blus­ter­ingly post­mod­ern Truro law courts.

Now, 24 years on, an­other build­ing has ap­peared to its right, perched above the beach – a pav­il­ion that emerges from the hill, clad in shim­mer­ing shiplap ce­ramic tiles that turn green and blue un­der rapidly chang­ing Cor­nish skies. This is the lat­est ex­ten­sion to Tate St Ives, by Jamie Fobert Ar­chi­tects, which opens to the pub­lic on 14 Oc­to­ber.

The two build­ings, which have been seam­lessly wo­ven to­gether in­side the hill, have dou­bled the avail­able ex­hi­bi­tion space. Where be­fore visi­tors com­ing for a full- on ex pe­ri­ence of the fa­mous St Ives School of­ten left feel­ing let down – where was the lo­cal work they’d come to see? The Bernard Leach pots, the daz­zling Pa­trick Heron paint­ings? – to­day in the orig­i­nal gal­leries hangs the full com­ple­ment of Al­fred Wal­lis seascapes, Ben Nichol­son ab­stracts, Bar­bara Hep­worth sculp - tures and Peter Lanyon land­scapes. Work by in­ter­na­tional St Ives-in­flu­enced names, such as the Dutch­man Piet Mon­drian, will ap­pear too.

At the end of this orig­i­nal en­filade of rooms, in­ti­mate gal­leries built to ser­vice a pre­vi­ous era of dain­tier art, visi­tors now en­ter Fobert ’s spa­cious new ad­di­tion. Con­nect­ing spa­ces lined with tex­tured pan­elling give way to a square arch lined with limed oak that leads to a 483msq, col­umn-free gallery washed with the inim­itable blue light that brought artists to St Ives in the

first place. ‘That was a sci­ence project,’ says Jamie Fobert, point­ing up to the six evenly dis­trib­uted sky­lights. ‘ We worked with the engineers for a cou­ple of years to get the amount of light right.’ When we go out­side, they jut out of the ground by sev­eral me­tres, and Fobert has cre­ated a land­scape of Cor­nish stone around them.

To make the new gallery con­nect to the old, Fobert ex­ca­vated right into the hill; its roof a part of the land­scape. ‘It was im­por­tant to hide away much of the build­ing,’ he says. ‘This is a com­mu­nity of 10,000. The last thing they needed was an­other Guggen­heim, a big flashy icon at the edge of their town.’

Cana­dian Fobert set up his own prac­tice in Lon­don in 1996, af­ter cut­ting his teeth in the stu­dio of David Chip­per­field. He has won mul­ti­ple awards for a se­ries of in­ge­nious in­di­vid­ual houses, and cre­ated re­tail en­vi­ron­ments for a long list of fab­u­lous names in­clud­ing Ver­sace and Givenchy. But St Ives is his big­gest step so far, and he cer­tainly knows a thing or two about the com­mu­nity he is serv­ing here. As we walk up and down the wind­ing streets, with their fish­er­men’s cot­tages and fudge shops (surely the world’s high­est con­cen­tra­tion per capita), lo­cal peo­ple stop to ask him how things are go­ing.

The open­ing is hotly an­tic­i­pated. The Tate is im­por­tant to the lo­cal econ­omy and to the town’s iden­tity. ‘The orig­i­nal build­ing is very dear to peo­ple here. I hope they get to like mine as much,’ says the ar­chi­tect, for whom the project has been a long time com­ing.

Jamie Fobert Ar­chi­tects first won the com­pe­ti­tion to de­sign the ex­ten­sion to Tate St Ives in 2005, with a scheme that stood proudly above ground and caused a lot of con­ster­na­tion about the loss of park­ing spa­ces in Barnoon car park.

‘This is a com­mu­nity of 10,000. The last thing they needed was an­other Guggen­heim’

Pre­vi­ous page Ar­chi­tect Jamie Fobert. Above The £20 mil­lion Tate St Ives ex­ten­sion sits among the shops and homes over­look­ing Porth­meor Beach. Above right Six sky­lights jut out of the ground, sur­rounded by Cor­nish stone

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