On Thursday 7 August we held a presentation at the Gallery of the emerging proposals for the expansion of MK Gallery. This event was very well attended and we were able to gather some excellent feedback on the proposals. We’ve since summarised the questions and comments that were received and have been able to provide responses to them below.
We will be able to provide a further update imminently on our planning submission, but would be more than delighted to receive any further feedback in the meantime. Please do contact us either through the blog or you can email me directly at email@example.com with your comments.
Are there proposals to change the name of the organisation?
Consideration with regards to the naming of the organisation will begin in October, once Arts Council funding is confirmed.
Are there proposals for additional extensions in the future?
The current building designs allow for further expansion in the future on the roof, either as a publicly accessible roof terrace or an additional room on the roof. Uses of this room have not yet been fully explored, but could include a community space, corporate hire facilities, additional catering provision or additional gallery and exhibition space.
What will happen to the Gallery during the construction period?
We are currently assuming that building work will start in summer 2015, and take approximately 18 months. During this time the Gallery building itself (at 900 Midsummer Boulevard) will be closed but the Gallery will continue to programme events and exhibitions in the Lozenge building at 3 Theatre Walk. The Gallery is also working on a programme of off-site exhibitions and interventions.
The new facilities are expected to open in Spring 2017.
Will the proposed aluminium cladding be affected by weather conditions? Will it rust and degrade over time?
The proposed aluminium cladding will be anodised rather than simply polished. This provides protection against the weather and will ensure that it will not tarnish. This material has also been used at the Louvre-Lens to good effect.
Has the Gallery explored relationships with commercial operators for the café (either on the ground floor or on the future roof expansion) to maximise rental income?
The Gallery has carried out a number of assessments into the strength of the local commercial property rental market which have revealed that rental figures in the theatre district are currently low compared to elsewhere in Central Milton Keynes. There are benefits around control of product, quality and brand which make a partnership with an independent operator desirable and in addition, the Gallery wishes to ensure that any catering offer fits the profile of the Gallery and offers a social, public space of difference within the city. There is a balance to be struck between commercial opportunity and public accessibility.
It is currently proposed that the café will be run by the cinema operator. Combining the offer in this way makes their operation more attractive and therefore increases the value of these opportunities.
Has the Gallery explored any additional potential relationships with the Theatre?
By expanding its facilities the Gallery will be able to put on a more diverse range of exhibitions, including historical and “blockbuster” shows. These shows will complement the Theatre’s existing programming and appeal to wider audiences, and may even include theatre, costume or set design exhibitions. The Gallery is also keen to explore more cross marketing opportunities with the Theatre and potential combined membership schemes.
Is there scope for the future expansion on the roof to provide an iconic shape to the building? What will the building look like from Campbell Park and the M1?
The future expansion area on the roof is not yet designed. However, the Gallery fully appreciates the importance of the location of the building as a bookend to Midsummer Boulevard and the last building before Campbell Park. Its position on the CMK skyline is also important, particularly when viewed from Campbell Park. The current proposals provide a visual identifier which clearly references the architectural language of Central Milton Keynes and is therefore iconic in its form and presentation.
The Gallery is keen to develop lighting and signage schemes which build upon these points, but certainly any future design work will continue the strong design aesthetic of the proposals.
Has the Gallery explored how it might use Campbell Park for exhibitions?
The Gallery has a strong relationship with the Parks Trust, and has worked alongside them on a number of commissions in Campbell Park. The Gallery is keen to continue this programme of work, and would welcome any further opportunities to develop public art or events within the green spaces of the city.
Will the Gallery be developing proposals for Midsummer Boulevard?
The Gallery has been heavily involved in workshops organised by Milton Keynes Council and Central Milton Keynes Town Council in relation to the development of Midsummer Boulevard East. It has provided significant feedback in relation to the emerging proposals and will continue to be an important stakeholder in those conversations.
How will the Gallery ensure diversity in its future programming?
As a significant visual arts organisation, MK Gallery has an opportunity and a duty to provide for the broad requirements of those in our catchment area. We plan, therefore, to move from a specialist contemporary gallery to a more mainstream and accessible venue, without losing the element of experimentation and innovation currently inherent in the programme.
Our programme has included exhibitions by artists from a range of backgrounds and traditions over recent years, including many who have an English/International connection that reflects the reality for contemporary culture in this country. From re-opening in 2017-18 we will programme to a framework, which ensures a diverse range of artists including women and those with a non-White British Heritage.
We will invest in artists and provide opportunities for the commissioning and creation of new work and continue to work with emerging artists and nurture talent.
Has the Gallery considered having a café on the roof instead of on the ground floor?
The Gallery has sought advice from industry experts in relation to the café offer within the building. It acknowledges that a number of large institutions (particularly in London) do have restaurants and bars at high levels but these are usually for organisations that benefit from significantly higher visitor numbers than MK Gallery and have multiple food outlets within a single venue. The advice received is that the café needs to be in the most accessible and visible part of the building and should encourage accessibility and inclusion rather than exclusivity.
The Gallery also feels that it is important that the proposals allow for activity to take place on Midsummer Boulevard. The Gallery has an excellent record of using external spaces around the Gallery for events and performances, and feels that it is vital that these spaces are enlivened by the presence of people and activity. This is also a key concept within local planning policy.