The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size. Photo © Hélène Binet
Photo © Hélène Binet

100 Buildings 100 Years

2000: The New Art Gallery, Walsall

Architect: Caruso St John
Location: Gallery Square, Walsall, West Midlands WS2 8LG

In the flurry of public projects stimulated by the National Lottery, the New Art Gallery Walsall stood out. Where other buildings turned to the future or the past, to bulbous futurism or to heritage, the gallery is rooted in the present, in its time and place. It takes cues unsnobbishly from 1960s towers even as it carries hints of Florentine palaces. It is dignified but also unexpected, in its combinations of concrete and terracotta, and of mass and lightness. It is physical, not abstract, in its material and light. It is a proud civic monument that also makes sense of the ragged edges of its site. Unlike some other Lottery projects it also has some content, with a reasonably good art collection at its core. And it was the breakthrough project for some outstanding young architects, selected through competition. Again, this doesn’t happen often enough.

by Rowan Moore


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