Developed for a cost of £25m, the five-storey gallery will become the home of the little-seen Garman Ryan collection, which holds many of the works of Sir Jacob Epstein, as well as pieces by Degas, Dürer, Goya, Rembrandt and Picasso. It will also host temporary exhibitions.
The gallery rises high above the rooftops of Walsall, echoing the way Victorian and Edwardian municipal architecture imposed itself on industrial towns. But, unlike the town halls that only councillors could enter, Walsall’s new gallery is open to all.
In the design of the tower, Caruso St John has tried to make the gallery as homely as the Garman Ryan collection, in which familial references are the common thread. Domestic-scale windows are set into terracotta cladding, and a ribbon of small windows runs around the top of the building.
Inside, the gallery is a combination of large spaces with exposed concrete walls and ceilings and a warren of smaller, lined rooms. The insitu concrete is cast with timber grain, making the rooms resemble ghostly medieval feasting halls. The smaller rooms are lined to provide an unintrusive backdrop to the artwork.
The gallery was built by Sir Robert McAlpine, with Citex as project manager, Hanscomb as QS and Ove Arup & Partners as structural and services engineer.