Nottingham Contemporary Designed by architects Caruso St John Tel: 0115 948 9750
On 2nd October, the Royal Institute of British Architects will award the Stirling prize to what it says is the best building of the year, but often isn’t. This year an outstanding contender, the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery by Caruso St John, didn’t even make the shortlist. So if you want a personal salon des refusés moment, you could do worse than to go there.
Inside, it has the judgement and restraint that are the routine virtues of modern art galleries, but what makes it good are its risky moves, most obviously the choice of green concrete to clad it, lace-patterned in honour of the city’s most famous industry. With a top gold-clad like an old cinema, it flirts with kitsch but is so beautifully and intelligently designed, and also so palpably serious, that it is instead something less easy to pin down. You don’t get it in one go but have to move round it and into it to appreciate the totality of building, city and art.
It also works with a steeply sloping site, connecting the many-levelled interior with streets and public steps on the outside. It restores a little faith in that much-embattled concept, the civic.