Gilbert & George are converting a 19th-century brewery in London’s Spitalfields into their own public gallery. Tower Hamlets council has already granted planning permission to SIRS – a design firm founded by Gilbert Prousch’s architect nephew – to convert a building off Brick Lane.
The pair have acquired the 18th-century brewery-turned-workshop on Heneage Street through their foundation, the Gilbert and George Centre. The site was formerly occupied by the artist Polly Hope, the wife and creative partner of Globe architect Theo Crosby, who lived and worked there until her death in 2013. Gilbert and George have been based in the area for over 30 years, living and working in two almost adjacent townhouses on Fournier Street.
The old brewery would become the main base for the Gilbert and George Centre, a non-profit with the aim of providing a place for the local community to encounter contemporary art for free.Plans submitted by SIRS suggest the centre will hold two rotating exhibitions a year, with 200 visitors expected each week.
The property falls within the Brick Lane conservation area but is not listed. The brewery building itself dates to circa 1830 and the artists wish to preserve its heritage.
The ground floor of the refurbished brewery building will be turned into an entrance lobby with a circulation area for the staircase and a lift, providing wheelchair access and a means of transporting the art between floors. The first floor will be turned into an 83-square-metre exhibition space. A basement level is proposed to house storage areas and bathrooms, to be built in line with the existing building footprint. A 1970s workshop will be demolished and rebuilt to meet current environmental standards as a second, 104-square-metre exhibition space. Although they plan to widen the entrance gate to avoid traffic jams they want to retain the greenery filled courtyard, aside from cleaning and re-bedding the moss-covered cobblestones.
“You walk in there and it is like a magic garden and we [will] try to keep that, because it is extraordinary,”
Prousch told the Evening Standard.
The planning documents state an intent to retain the birch tree growing by the entrance, and to plant new climbing plants once an overgrown and dilapidated boundary fence is replaced.