Taco! Gallery, Thamesmead Estate in East London
Architect - Manalo & White Architects
Client - TACO! Gallery
Products - Ketley brown brindle bricks, specials and quarry tiles
Photography - David Grandorge
This community arts project, a new gallery space for Thamesmead Arts and Culture Office or Taco! in South East London, has been designed by Manalo and White Architects and has Ketley brown brindle bricks and pavers very much at its heart. The outside of the building having already been completed when they were appointed, Manalo and White's scheme has created the internal space, providing a gallery, event space, bookshop, and a broadcast studio/radio booth for radio RTM.FM.
Thamesmead is a residential area, built in the 60’s and 70’s by the Peabody Estate, and is made up predominantly of concrete brutalist apartments and houses. The architects had noticed how local residents have added brickwork to their buildings, and used brick to put their own personal stamp and character into their properties. The space itself was relatively small, but with high ceilings. The architects wanted to create a space that would fit with the residential spaces surrounding it. They also wanted it to provide a great backdrop for selling art, be a space that would last, be robust and not require any maintenance. Taco is a charitable organisation and so the budget was exceedingly tight, and the scheme needed to be as efficient as possible.
The architects had seen Ketley quarry tiles at the Barbican where their warm clay colours soften the look of the brutalist concrete structures and they took inspiration from there. They felt that matching the walls to the floor and creating just one surface that would wrap around the inside of the building, would give the right feel to the space and the continuity of the material would not distract from the art exhibits on display there. They came up with the idea of stopping the walls short of the ceiling to bring a more domestic scale to the space, and adding a course of soldier bullnose bricks to the top gives a lovely soft finish and detail, and is a finish in keeping with external walls in the surrounding area. Bespoke soldier external bullnose returns were specially made for the corners to achieve a neat contemporary finish. Having decided to use Ketley bricks and quarry tiles quite early on in the process, the architects were able to put them right at the heart of the project, using their dimensions to guide the design for the doors and windows, thus minimising cutting and creating the neatest, most simple finish. Some windows, visible from the road have been filled with timber, almost like hoarding or fencing, again relating to a domestic setting and at the same time providing flexible options for how the space is used. The clay finish was a very efficient choice for providing a simple build, with no need for any additional material layering up and the clay quarry tiles work extremely well with underfloor heating. The brown brindle bricks and quarry tiles, with their almost shiny finish and slight variations in tone, give a welcoming, warm feel to the space that is highly contemporary. The new Taco gallery is almost like a sculpture itself!