6a architects extends MK gallery with corrugated stainless steel box

6a architects
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a simple rectangular form wrapped in corrugated stainless steel functions as the new extension of a 20-year-old gallery in milton keynes, UK.

london-based studio 6a architects stripped back the interiors of the existing galleries and cut new openings in a nod to the city’s axial layout with its uninterrupted views. the £12m reboot includes gallery spaces, an auditorium, education facilities, a café and bar.6a architects was chosen from a competition for the project by the director of MK gallery, anthony spira, who was impressed by the firm’s study into the history of milton keynes. the parallel lines of the corrugated, stainless-steel façade and the rectangular form of the structure represent the city’s most distinctive feature — the modernist grid of roads that make up the town.

elements of the original gallery still exist, such as the main entrance adjacent to the milton keynes theatre which was built in the 1990s. the façade has been painted in sandstone and terracotta, a revival of the original design, and plastered with a neon heart and the original typographic logotype for milton keynes. the new bold blue graphic logo for MK gallery, which was redesigned last year, is also there. the architects also repurposed a former loading bay to create a space for the café. exposed concrete, bright globe lighting and colorful pipes reference to the interior of the city’s former architecture department, an early work of norman foster nicknamed ‘the custard factory’.

6a architects worked with artists nils norman and milton keynes-born gareth jones to come up with an eye-popping color palette for the interior. drawing inspiration from a color chart found in a 1978 habitat catalogue, stairwells are coated in candy pink, dairy cream, and canary yellow. meanwhile toilets are decked out in orange, pillar box red, burgundy, peppermint green, and chocolate.

norman and jones’ work, designed in collaboration with the architects, continues in the form of artful cut-outs to create new windows and sightlines reminiscent of the city’s long vistas. in the second floor auditorium a circle shape has been carved in the exterior, creating a vast semicircular window that opens out to a nearby park. the walls are clad with raw plywood and exposed acoustic foam, and lining the space is a curtain striped with an abstract landscape of brown, green and blue — continuing the 70s vision.

the gallery will open with ‘the lie of the land,’ an ambitious exhibition spread across all five galleries curated by MK gallery director, anthony spira, with sam jacob, claire louise staunton, fay blanchard, tom emerson, gareth jones, and niall hobhouse. the exhibition is designed as a kind of cabinet of curiosities that places milton keynes and the new gallery in a playful context. it looks at changing attitudes towards leisure, culture and landscape over more than 250 years. the gallery will open to the public on march 16, 2019.

6a architects extends MK gallery with corrugated stainless steel box