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Architecture or Art in Nottingham, United Kingdom: Chick...

Architecture or Art in Nottingham, United Kingdom: Chicken or The Egg?

Modern art finally has a place to call home in Nottingham, United Kingdom. Opened in November 2009, Nottingham Contemporary, designed by architects Caruso St John has proved to be very popular; attracting just under 300,000 visitors through the doors in its first year. But what is it that visitors actually go to visit? Do they

The Exterior of Nottingham Contemporary

Modern art finally has a place to call home in Nottingham, United Kingdom. Opened in November 2009, Nottingham Contemporary, designed by architects Caruso St John has proved to be very popular; attracting just under 300,000 visitors through the doors in its first year. But what is it that visitors actually go to visit? Do they really want to look at the art within this building or are they more interested with the building and its distinctive lace patterned green and gold exterior?

It is unsurprising that an architect is more interested in going to look at the spaces created, rather than what they contain, but what about the general public? For me, it has been interesting to observe the reaction of many local people, talking about wanting to visit that ‘cool looking building,’ but rarely mentioning the exhibition inside. This is in contrast to the Lowry Exhibition, held at a rather more low key, low budget (in design terms at least) University gallery on the outskirts of the city which generated enormous public interest, attracting just shy of 50,000 visitors in the 10 weeks it was open.

Perhaps the chicken and egg theory does apply here. Perhaps there is a market for contemporary design in Nottingham, but a landmark building such as this is needed as the flare that grabs peoples attention. Perhaps the building will be so successful it will lead to more across the city? It might even inspire a generation of young Nottingham artists so that in 10 years time the city is looked to as a beacon of contemporary art.

If people really are visiting just to gawk at this fantastic piece of modern design and the art is just an added extra, is this really a sustainable approach to getting people engaged with contemporary culture? Will the visitor numbers drop significantly once people have visited once? Could the £14 million spent on this building not have been spent on commissioning a more useful public building? Or has the building been a success, with the people of Nottingham slowly becoming cultured art connoisseurs?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.
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Ashley Roberts is a recent graduate of the University of Nottingham, England, with a Diploma in Architecture and is now studying for his part-three accreditation. Still living in Nottingham, but with strong links to Liverpool and London, he has a pas...

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