David Chipperfield Architect’s new Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate does appear a little unworldly as you weave into the British seaside town that seems half stuck in the everyday grind of small town life and half harking back to its bygone glory days of British seaside resort.
It is stark, grey and modernist and not even in keeping with the accruement of more contemporary cafés and galleries that form part of the Margate regeneration team’s dream, of café culture coupled with creative start-ups escaping from excessive east London rents.
If anything, the building seems to abide by the aesthetic of the North Sea, which it faces onto, and the north Kent skies if frames; both expansive, understated, and arguably Margate’s most timeless features.
Inside the gallery, which occupies two large shed-like structures with oblique angled roofs, there is something formulaic about the polished concrete, large glass light wells, recessed staircases and soft backlighting, but it works.
The building brings natural daylight from the seafront in, which, it is in part a tribute to – Turner escaped to Margate from London for its quality of light, and captures silence, space and awe around the exhibits, bringing some of the essence of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (the Turner is partner of Tate) from London’s Southbank to Kent’s coastline.
Inside, the etched and painted, classic and contemporary representations of Margate, together with the slick architecture and central sea-facing window, do only seem to capture one side of this seaside town; luckily we have artists like Emin to expose the other.
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