Leicester Print WorkshopA transformation of a 1970s former glass warehouse to create new printmaking studios, library, gallery and education spaces for Leicester Print Workshop in the city’s Cultural Quarter. LPW will become one of the leading fine art printmaking studios in the UK with the backing of Arts Council England and Leicester City Council amongst its many supporters. The 4,800sqft warehouse was completely gutted to allow for the insertion of new windows, floor and roof to form 8,500sqft of new spaces for the Midlands based printmakers. Existing historical artifacts including immense steel beams, cranes, a raw concrete floor and external brick piers and walls have been retained in place. The ‘new’ inserted or layered elements have been predominantly constructed in white in colour to highlight the existing artifacts and preserve the building’s character. The layered composition of spaces forms a fitting backdrop to spaces for original printmaking. On the ground floor, LPW’s main printmaking studio will activate a previously neglected part of the city and will animate this new gateway to the Cultural Quarter with the visibility of their making processes. A series of workshop spaces for etching, lithography stone graining, silk screen washing, aquatint and a dark room are located at the rear. At the front is the new double height gallery space with the library area for members. An existing crane and its support beam have been kept in this space piercing through the upper floor offices from the void area. The upper level is predominantly artist studio spaces for hire with offices for LPW and a framing space. There is a further central void in the middle of the studio where the two floors are connected in view. Read more below.
The project has been funded significantly by Arts Council England, together with investment from major grant making trusts and various fundraising events and activities by the artists themselves. The project has been a focal point of community development and bonding in the area among not only the artists but of a wider community. The Leicester City Council gifted the freehold of the original building to LPW and it has helped realise the ambition of LPW to expand and grow its presence in the Midlands area. There has been a strong participatory process throughout the 3.5 years of project development led by Lucy Philips, the Director, with firstly design workshops with LPW makers and later a series of volunteer weekends during the final phase of the project. The volunteers have helped with some of the decoration, building of partitions, gardening, and cleaning. Funds were also raised through local supporters with the sale of designed mugs and artists’ prints. Architect Takero Shimazaki was also involved in the selection of Artists in Residence, who are developing artworks inspired by the new architecture to mark their move from the previous studio space.
The project forms part of a series of recent projects by t-sa, including the new Curzon Bloomsbury, where the notion of ‘renewal’ has taken a central part of the studio’s approach. Working with what is already there on site, t-sa focused on the existing and historical artifacts to create the architecture for LPW. This is partly as a result of the tight budget, however it is also their core belief that ‘new build’ projects are not the only way to make a significant and long lasting architectural contribution to cities. t-sa’s surveying process of the existing context and the building has been like that of a detective where stripping out works are done at a very early stage of the project to identify which part of the structure, external walls, floor and roof materials can be kept or re-used. Externally, some of the original window openings have been re-used and others closed up with purposeful recesses to mark such actions.
LPW’s new premises is set to become a significant gateway for Leicester’s Cultural Quarter, together with other venues such as the Curve Theatre and Phoenix Art Centre, it will continue to promote and advance printmaking and the arts in Leicester.
Anton Gorlenko, Emma Gardner, Sumiko Eadon