The Pier Arts Centre was first designed by Kate Heron and Levitt Bernstein in the 1970s to house the marvellous collection of modern British art belonging to Margaret Gardiner.
The original building occupied a single warehouse on the waterfront at Stromness. The new building was commissioned eight years ago following a design competition. It consists of a warehouse-like form placed on a newly formed pier beside the old?building and a faithful refurbishment of the original building. The original gallery is a delightful series of rooms with horizontal voids running along its length and deep window reveals which are used as display cases. The domestic character seems entirely appropriate for the collection which is made up of relatively small works by artists such as Ben Nicholson, Patrick Heron and Barbara Hepworth.
In contrast to the solid and domestic feel of the original building, the extension is a much lighter structure – although it mimics the form and footprint of the original. The dark, zinc-clad structural system – with mullions at 450mm centres and a translucent glazing system – ?creates a simple form which changes character depending on your vantage point and the natural light levels. When looked at from the fisherman’s ?harbour or from the ferry, the glazed box appears black and solid. When seen from the side, it is a barely visible translucent form.
The new building provides a very understated entrance onto the town’s main street. This opens into a reception and shop which is clad in a warm timber. The bulk of the new building is given over to new works and will be used for temporary travelling exhibitions and local artists’ shows. One space opens onto a new terrace overlooking the water, another is double height.
However, the most compelling feature of both the refurbishment and the new building is the way in which they carefully frame views to the surrounding seascape without compromising the placing of the artworks.
Photographer: Penny Lewis