I managed to get a very quick look around the new Nottingham Contemporary yesterday. I was pushed for time, but my mate John Lyle had text me earlier in the week to say how much he hated it. So I thought I had better see what the fuss was about.
I have to say that I carried my prejudices in with me in a large suitcase (with wheels). I think the external facade is hideous. And as a gateway into the city I am not sure that it gives a good impression. I particularly dislike the cast concrete with its lace pattern – it already is beginning to attract the dirt. There are acres of the green concrete and the street scene is pretty awful. And does it sit well in its surroundings? No. It really is a blot.
So, what of the inside? Well it has the current vogue of certain architects – cast concrete by the cartload. I have a fear that it will date and if ‘green’ is your thing, concrete certainly isn’t. And I don’t mean the colour green – I mean the way of life! Concrete does not have a high sustainability factor. The quality of finish of concrete can be the difference between good and great. This is at the good end of the scale. The finish at Nottingham Trent University is great.
But this is exhibition space and thus big white boxes prevail. And thats what they are. There are a series of them. And they are…big and white. Not disappointed about that – but surely this is the easy bit? Even I can design a big white box!
I peeped in the cinema / performance space which looks ok. And the cafe was quite good. It has a mix of social and formal seating – the food was reasonably priced and quite tasty. The toilets were purple! And no sign of the Dyson hand dryers?
So my overall impression? It’s ok. They have done well to get the Hockney Exhibition – the Bigger Splash thingy is … big! The new retro ‘diner’ sign is completely out of context and I can’t help wonder what the planners were thinking. The outside is horrible, the inside passable, but not ‘wow’. And is was only double the price of its original budget… Only a ‘C’ for me then. And a scraped ‘C’ at that!