I went tonight to a lecture organised by the Architecture Foundation in which Jamie Fobert talked about his three current, long-standing arts projects, one of which, Tate St. Ives, has just opened.
He started with a modest installation he had done in Tate Modern in 2002, in which he demonstrated his interest in the placement of works of art in open space and the way the spectator related to them with extreme economy of means.
He was first employed to work at Kettle’s Yard in 2004, when he reconfigured a Chinese restaurant at the corner of the site and, following the death of Michael Harrison, was employed by Andrew Nairne to do a much more ambitious scheme, protecting, as far as possible, the Leslie Martin 1970 extension with its ample use of brick, but at the same time creating two generously proportioned exhibition galleries in the old terrace on Castle Hill and much improving disabled access.
He won the competition to transform the barns adjacent to Charleston Farmhouse in 2009, jointly with Julian Harrap (one of the characteristics of his talk was his generosity to the work of collaborators). The old barns have been restored and a new barn-like structure has been created alongside to contain archive, exhibition gallery and loos. The project is on site, due to open, he said, next summer.
I had no idea how long-drawn out and complicated his project in St. Ives has been, owing to the fierce determination of the local community to STOP THE TATE and retain the car park on the hill above the art gallery. In the end, he won the second competition with a project which is sandwiched between the car park and the sheltered housing by the beach. But it looks like a very intelligent solution, adding a large, open exhibition space underground alongside and opening up the existing Evans & Shalev 1993 building.
Each of the projects demonstrated the extreme intelligence of his approach to design, based on close attention to solving the problems of the ground plan and then allowing the shape and structure of the building to grow from the experience of its context and intelligent use of unexpected materials.