Woking seeks national role for £7m visual arts gallery

A raft of UK design groups is working on the opening of Surrey visual arts project The Lightbox.


The £7m development in Woking, due to open to the public in September, will be home to permanent and temporary spaces that will host national and regional visual arts exhibitions, as well as a local history museum and leisure facilities.


The Lightbox team hopes the building, designed by London Eye architect Marks Barfield, will be a landmark, putting it on a par with some of the best-known galleries and museums in the South East.


Real Studios has been working on the design of Woking’s Story – the permanent exhibition space – exploring the town’s heritage, while branding group Aqueduct is developing a visual language that will be applied to The Lightbox’s opening campaign, promotional literature and gallery signage, launching in August.


Aqueduct has retouched the original logo, created by Plus Purple last year, while the website, launched in March, was designed by Norfolk group The Bureau for Visual Affairs.


Funding for the project has come from a number of sources – £3m from Woking Council, £1.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £300 000 from the Arts Council and £2m from The Lightbox’s own fundraising efforts.


Marks Barfield began work on the design of the building in 2002, having won an international architecture competition to find an architect.


The design of the building is influenced by the location, situated between a six-lane motorway on one side, and a protected canal-side nature reserve on the other.


According to Marilyn Scott, director of The Lightbox, the building emphasises these contrasting surroundings by using different types of materials on either side.


Anodised aluminium gold and silver cladding on the ‘motorway’ side is designed to be ‘in tune’ with passing cars, and oak cladding, on the ‘natural side’, harmonises with nature, she says.


Interior features include wide corridors and stairs, allowing visitors to navigate easily throughout the space.


The Lightbox claims to be one of the Greenest buildings in Woking, with renewable energy supplies, photovoltaic cells supplying solar power, natural ventilation throughout and a drainage system that delivers rainwater directly to the canal.


Acqueduct was appointed to the five-figure branding project three months ago, following a tender process and subsequent four-way pitch between undisclosed consultancies.


It was handed a brief to create branding that will position The Lightbox as ‘the’ regional museum and gallery in the South East, but has also been contracted for the next three years to work on specific exhibition campaigns.


According to Clive Russell, senior designer at Aqueduct, the shapes within the building have been condensed into geometric patterns that will make up the visual brand language.


The colour palette, although taking red as its principal colour, is being kept flexible to allow the use of colours to represent specific exhibitions.



PLAYING TO THE GALLERIES
• The Lightbox grew out of a community group that was initially known as The Woking Arts & Crafts Society
• It has been running as an outreach arts group for 14 years
• The opening exhibition, Animated Adventures – curated in conjunction with Aardman Animation – runs from 14 September
• The museum and history gallery will tell the history of Woking and will feature life-sized sets of the town.
• Temporary space will house touring exhibitions and national ‘blockbuster’ shows
• The gallery will house a private 20th century art collection on loan from a private collector
• Additional facilities include an education room, a meeting room, a café and landscaped gardens

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