Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration launches £30,000 design tender

The two-year project includes the design of a permanent gallery and design contributions to the centre’s three other spaces.

Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration has launched a tender for the design of a permanent gallery showing work from Quentin Blake’s archive as well as the design of showcases and furniture for two temporary exhibition galleries.

Located in Clerkenwell, London, the centre has recently been awarded a development grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to support the project. Design of the gallery spaces will need to be delivered in two phases with a break clause between them, according to the brief.

The layout of the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration site. Image credit: Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

It proposes that Phase 1 will run from April to July 2023 and will cover gallery design that progresses through RIBA equivalent stages 2 and 3. This phase will need to be completed by 28 July 2023 to meet the deadline for the next stage of the application.

Phase 2 will run from January 2024 to March 2025. Subject to securing NLHF funding, the work will resume, and design will be developed to construction stage.

The Quentin Blake Centre will house four gallery and display spaces: the Quentin Blake Gallery, a temporary exhibition gallery, a reading and display space and the Coal Stores temporary exhibition gallery.

Quentin Blake Gallery design

The bulk of the design work will be on the Quentin Blake Gallery on the second floor of the Engine House. Though it is a permanent gallery, its display will change annually “to enable new works and themes to be explored while limiting light exposure”, says the brief. Each display will comprise around 75 works and must be designed with school groups, families, adults, illustration students and visual arts enthusiasts in mind.

Key deliverables for this aspect of the tender are design layout, colour treatment and materials, two to three display cases, graphics, audio-visual elements, and a seating and drawing area.

The Engine House building. Image credit: Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

The brief details that the gallery must reflect “the economy and lightness of Quentin’s work and his colour palette”. It adds that it is preferred that the designer will use sustainably sourced natural materials and finishes, while avoiding “the solid, formal feel of a traditional permanent gallery” and “gimmicky additions or imitations of Quentin’s line”.

For the layout, the designer will adopt a free-flowing floorplan without partitions to allow easy access through the gallery and maintain open views of the Engine House’s form. The gallery’s three entry points should also be considered in its interpretation and arrangement of display cases and furniture.

Text panels across the gallery will including an introduction, section panels and object labels for both wall-mounted and cased works. Proposals from designers who cover 3D and 2D design, or who propose a collaborative approach by subcontracting a graphic designer, are welcome.

Furniture design also falls under the remit of this brief and will mainly be for the family-friendly drawing space. Though AV requirements are limited, the designer must facilitate two display screens and/or projectors that can show relevant film footage.

“Interactive elements that respond to the themes of the content through drawing and moving will be integrated through prompts, a fixed point interactive and activities designed in collaboration with our Learning and Participation team”, says the brief.

Other design work in the brief

The space on the first floor of the Engine House will showcase historic and contemporary illustration. Design work will comprise two to four showcases and moveable seating.

The centre is working with Tim Ronalds Architects on plans for the reading and display space but will ask the gallery designers for input. It also requires the design of flexible furniture for the Coal Stores temporary exhibition space, such as showcases and moveable partitions.

The Coal Stores building. Image credit: Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration

Budget and fees

There is an allowance of £30,000 for gallery design fees, to cover both 3D and 2D design. This will be split across Phase 1 and 2. The centre estimates an exhibition build budget of £150,000 to include showcases, furniture and graphics. The chosen gallery designer will work with the centre on deciding accurate costings for the work.

How to apply

Email submissions can be sent to [email protected] with the subject line ‘Gallery Design tender’ by Thursday 6 April at 5pm. More information on the brief can be found on the Quentin Blake Illustration Centre website.

Any questions about the tender can be sent to the email above with the subject line ‘Gallery Design clarification’ by Wednesday 30 March at 12pm.

Banner image credit: Justin Piperger

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