Refurbished modernist building to become new artistic hub: Forma HQ to launch in Southwark, London this summer

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Refurbished modernist building to become new artistic hub: Forma HQ to launch in Southwark, London this summer
FormaHQ. Image courtesy Forma Arts & Media. Photograph by Max Creasy.

LONDON.- Commissioned by Southwark Council in collaboration with curator Aldo Rinaldi, the newly refurbished modernist building was designed by Sanchez Benton Architects with international artist Gabriel Kuri. The light-filled structure, situated on Great Dover Street by Bricklayer’s roundabout in Southwark, includes Forma’s new offices, five affordable artist studios, a residency space for visiting international artists, an event space and room for a café and bookshop. The rooftop was converted into a new public garden further designed with celebrated horticulturalist Nigel Dunnett and will be fitted with furniture designed by Kuri.

The garden will be open to the public during office hours. Weekend access will be available from summer 2021. Artist studios will launch in August 2021.

The move to its first public-facing site marks a turning point in Forma’s 19-year history. Having operated as a successful contemporary art organisation funded by Arts Council England, Forma will now be able to contribute and integrate into London’s cultural landscape by supporting emerging and established artists through studios, residencies and opportunities to present their work and activating the public garden through cultural events.

In addition, Forma will utilise the studio rental income to create a 24-month Fellowship for an emerging Curator to develop a meaningful cultural engagement programme for local residents, young people and the surrounding borough. The Fellow will act as a key partner for Forma, linking Forma’s international contemporary art programmes with local neighbours in London.

In 2020 Forma was awarded a 10-year lease to operate the new cultural hub in Southwark. The site is adjacent to Bricklayers Arms Roundabout, London SE1, part of the Old Kent Road opportunity area where Southwark Council is leading a regeneration programme set to deliver thousands of new homes and jobs. The new building, known as Peveril Gardens Studios, is a 1960s brick and concrete structure which was originally made up of lockable garages on the ground floor and a private roof garden. Following a public consultation with the residents of the Peveril Estate, Southwark Council worked with the Mayor of London to raise funds, including a grant from the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund, to initiate a culturally driven regeneration of the site. Curator Aldo Rinaldi, who was commissioned to provide artistic direction, oversaw the recruitment of Sanchez Benton Architects and the selection of Gabriel Kuri, Nigel Dunnett and Forma.

Forma received £100,000 from Arts Council England’s Small Capital Grants fund. It also received £18,000 in the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund: Capital Kickstart administered by Arts Council England to fit out the ground floor spaces in line with its ambitions to make the space as accessible and environmentally sustainable as possible. The affordable artist studios will open in August 2021, followed by the bespoke garden furniture and the café & bookshop later in the year.

Chris Rawcliffe, Artistic Director at Forma, said: The scale, high quality design and versatility of Peveril Garden Studios represent a huge opportunity for Forma to embed itself within Southwark and bridge the gap between Forma’s national contemporary art commissions and its London community. The vision of curator Aldo Rinaldi and the beautiful designs of Nigel Dunnett, Gabriel Kuri, and Sanchez Benton architects create an inspiring work environment for our artists and collaborators. Forma’s team and Trustees will work closely with our new partners at Southwark Council to make this new cultural hub and garden a destination for local residents and Londoners alike, and for all those seeking an oasis of nature, culture and peace.

Anders Hemmingsen, Chair, Forma Arts & Media said: “I am incredibly proud of the teams at Forma, the Southwark Council and Sanchez Benton for bringing FormaHQ to life. The success of this ambitious project in many ways symbolizes Forma’s mission to commission and produce art that is challenging, exciting and contributes to critical discourse. The creation of a vibrant cultural hub in the centre of Southwark will transform the way Forma works with artists and the way we engage with the community and beyond. I am excited for Forma’s next chapter at FormaHQ.”

Aldo Rinaldi, Curator and Co-commissioner of Forma HQ, said: “Peveril Garden's has been a real labour of love, which has brought together a team of artists, architects, horticulturalists and residents together to re-imagine this powerful urban space, with client Southwark Council, who are well versed in the transformative power of culture in place making. Artist led from the start it is fitting that an arts charity now occupies and breaths life into the space with artists studios and events programme for the garden that residents can enjoy. I’m hugely grateful to Southwark Council and Rumi Bose, for their vision in supporting this project, and the GLA who helped fund it along with the New Homes Bonus, Arts Council England, and the Council and Cleaner Greener Safer. Gabriel Kuri, Nigel Dunnett horticulturalist and Sanchez Benton have helped to fashion this urban space into a thing of beauty with the many residents who also gave their time and ideas.“

Councillor Helen Dennis, Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development, Southwark Council, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Forma Arts to Southwark. Bricklayers Arms is a central London location which links two areas in transition. Huge investment is going into both the Elephant and Castle and Old Kent Road neighbourhoods to ensure that they can serve the needs of their communities for generations to come. The arts and creative sector will have a big role to play in this, especially during life after COVID, as we start to get back on our feet. Organisations such as Forma, which can provide space for local people to enjoy and engage with the arts, right on their own doorstep, are exactly what we need. I’m particularly pleased that this project has given new purpose to an old building and revitalised a rooftop garden which can now be enjoyed both by the public and residents of Peveril House, alike.”

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