In 1954 Jim Ede, the founder of Kettle’s Yard, envisaged creating –
“a living place where works of art could be enjoyed… where young people could be at home unhampered by the greater austerity of the museum or public art gallery.”
Last night, the Friends of Kettle’s Yard organised a presentation by architect Jamie Fobert to discuss his plans for the gallery site. Following a £3.5m award by the Arts Council’s Investment Programme in the Summer, Kettle’s Yard is tantalisingly close to it’s £8.7m target, with £500,000 still to raise.
Kettle’s Yard is a unique location and the site has grown and developed though several key stages across 60 years. Jamie lead us though the site’s development – from a group of cottages in 1957, to the extension of the house and gallery in 1970 by architects Leslie Martin and David Owers, and still further developments in the 80’s and 90’s. It is tempting to think of Kettle’s Yard developing in bold leaps at key stages, which it has. But the gallery has also evolved slowly through small pragmatic adaptations to suit changing visitor needs and expectations, which means that much of what we now recognise as Kettle’s Yard does not reflect the pure intention or vision of the architects and curators involved. Much of the brickwork that was part of Leslie Martin’s work in the 1980’s has been covered in a concrete render and there are hopes to restore this feature. Gallery spaces have become bookshops and improvised education rooms. Fobert’s presentation explained the incremental evolution of the space with site drawings and archive photographs.
The latest plans for Kettle’s Yard require a fundamental re-structuring – it’s not a case of knocking-through and moving a few walls. New flexible gallery spaces will be created allowing for much taller work and larger displays. Climate control will again mean that KY can accommodate more fragile artworks. The Clore Learning Studio is a dedicated education room capable of housing a full class. The Edlis Neeson Project Space will house the archive, university research and community displays. The visitor experience is further improved with a café, a bigger shop, plus new courtyard and entrance areas. Staff offices, meeting and function rooms will also be created. Also a consistent “shop-front” will be established which will help the gallery better present itself and cement Kettle’s Yard as a landmark within the city.
Despite all that is new, Fobert’s team have taken great care to respect the character of Kettle’s Yard and to preserve and even re-establish key features from the previous strata in the gallery’s history and development.