Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge reopens after Jamie Fobert Architects renovation

Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge reopens after Jamie Fobert Architects renovation

Jamie Fobert Architects has revealed the newly designed Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. The redesign and extension of the existing complex has opened up a new entrance, two new galleries, an expanded education suite, as well as a new café.

The much-loved Kettle’s Yard, which holds collections of British and European modern art including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Joan Miro, has been under development for two years. With his perceptive approach to heritage and ability to make conservation contemporary, Jamie Fobert is fast emerging as a first choice architect for cultural institutions across the UK – his practice extended Tate St Ives in 2016 and has just been announced to be heading up the National Portrait Gallery’s transformation scheduled to begin 2020.

The new facade of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge designed by Jamie Fobert Architects. Photography: Hufton + Crow

At Kettle’s Yard, sensitive restructuring has smoothly linked up the new spaces to the original house owned by Tate curator and art collector Jim Ede (1895-1990) and the 1970s extension by architects Sir Leslie Martin and David Owers, allowing it to expand into its role as a leading national institution.

The new extension is rooted in concepts established by Ede, Martin and Owers. Fobert was fascinated by the smooth journey from the cottages to the 1970s extension – two pieces of architecture that are almost antithetical in style, yet the shift between them is seamless: ‘It was that post-war period when mid-century modernism became very soft, gentle, careful and inquisitive, with natural materials, volume and light, but very unassuming in terms of its materiality,’ he says of the 1970s extension. ‘It’s an extraordinarily severe piece of modernism when you take all the stuff away – an empty vessel of light and raw materiality, which only comes to life with objects in it.’

‘It was really important to Jim Ede that the collection would be housed in what was a house. It was one thing to mix contemporary art and furniture in a cottage, but he was making a very specific proposition of how to live, in modern architecture, with historic objects, and contemporary art – which was extremely comfortable,’ he says.

Fobert’s work is an evolution of this warm modernism, yet also is a reflection of today and the contemporary needs of a public institution. He delievers that practicality through stripped back materiality and a prioritisation of function – circularity, wall space, disabled access. While brick continues in places, he adds polished concrete floors and a mild steel staircase.

Double-height spaces and skylights (designed to the same proportions of the skylights in the 1970s extension) echo architectural moments of the house; yet at the same time, we travel far away from Cambridge to a space worthy of New York’s Chelsea gallery district (a pleasure for Andrew Nairne, the ambitious director of Kettle’s Yard who is thrilled that the gallery is now worthy to show works by the likes of Julie Mehretu).

New configuration of space connects the exhibition and education spaces to the existing architecture/ Photography: Hufton + Crow

The new Clore Learning Studio will allow Kettle’s Yard’s learning programmes and activities for young people to increase by nearly 200 per cent, the new research space will be accessible for academic research and community projects, while the new café will serve as a creative and social space for the public to enjoy.

Located in central Cambridge, Kettle’s Yard is part of the consortium of the University of Cambridge Museums and will open to the public on Saturday 10 February.

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