A ground-breaking ceremony recently celebrated the start of work by Rugby-based construction firm Stepnell on the University of Leicester’s new contemporary art gallery. The event was performed by Michael Attenborough CBE. He is the son of the late Lord Attenborough after whom the university arts centre is named and who is an honorary graduate of the university.
The new extension, designed by GSSArchitecture, is set to be completed in autumn 2015. When open, it will increase the Richard Attenborough Centre’s size by more than 400 sqm, split over two levels. The sustainable new building in Lancaster Road, Leicester, will feature a double-height gallery, two additional spaces and a landscaped courtyard. Creating one of the East Midlands’ most extensive gallery spaces for contemporary art, it will offer a wide range of exhibitions and events bringing local, national and international contemporary art to Leicester.
Professor Paul Boyle, president and vice-chancellor of the university, says: “We are here to change lives through innovative research and teaching. In addition, the university is committed to providing cultural and educational inspiration for all and hence this wonderful facility will be open to the public. It will provide a showcase for talent and will allow us to connect with diverse audiences across the region. The public has supported the development of this facility and we are very proud to announce the start of construction on this prestigious project.”
The original Richard Attenborough Centre was completed in 1997, the result of a campaign led by Lord Attenborough. One of only two purpose-built accessible arts centres in the East Midlands for the promotion of arts and disability, it is a winner of a RIBA award for arts and health, and cited as “an outstanding example of universal design” on the English Heritage’s Disability in Time and Place website. To build on the success of the existing centre, the new development will also be fully accessible and use the latest in technology to enable both disabled and non-disabled audiences to enjoy the very best of the arts in novel and exciting ways.
“The existing building is an established centre for the creation of visual artworks,” says GSSArchitecture associate Paul Harkin. “The new galleries will provide a bespoke setting for the display of these works and many others, to be viewed and appreciated by all visitors.”
Stepnell director Bill Haynes adds: “Our team is thrilled to be bringing its expertise in delivering high-quality public buildings to this exciting project. We are delighted to have started construction on the new development which is set to establish a major new cultural landmark for the East Midlands.”
The £1.5 million cost of the new gallery is being secured with major support from Arts Council England, the Garfield Weston Foundation and other grants and individual donations raised by the University of Leicester through its Breaking Barriers Appeal. Deputy development director Ave Vinick says: “While over £1.4 million has already been raised from nearly 1,000 generous donors, we are still urgently seeking additional support to complete the appeal.”