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Raven Row

Grade I listed former Huguenot silk merchant luxury shops restored and transformed by 6a architects into the contemporary art centre, Raven Row.


6a Architects



56 Artillery Lane E1 7LS

Sat/Sun 11am-6pm. Last entry 5.30pm.

Liverpool Street

8, 48, 149, 242, 26

  • Bookshop at location
  • Partial disabled
  • Regularly open to the public at no charge
  • Toilets available

RAVEN ROW Raven Row is a new non-profit contemporary art centre. Built 1754-2009Listed Grade 16a ArchitectsCommissioned in July 2005Construction began in August 2007; completion date 26 January 2009 Open to the public 28 February 2009Exterior 56 & 58 Artillery LaneThe buildings at 56 and 58 Artillery Lane were built in 1754 for successful Huguenot silk mercers. The shop front of no. 56 (right-hand side) is one of the finest examples in London from the Georgian period. The colour is as it was in the mid eighteenth century, (imitating the colour of the stone of the steps.) The shop front of no. 58 was replaced in the 1820s in a simpler Regency style. During the same decade, the first floor windows to no. 56 were lowered also following Regency fashion. A fine decorated cast iron railing was added above the shop front but was stolen in the 1960s. All the windows in the fa‡ade are original (mid Georgian or Regency). The windows with thicker mullions are mid eighteenth century while the finer ones are Regency.Ground floorThe ground floors of both buildings were shops trading until the early 1970s when the upper floors were used as offices.Two fires seriously damaged the buildings in the 1950s and 1972. After the second fire, concrete was used extensively to reinforce the buildings; the concrete floor in the front rooms is from this period.The hallways are original and very slightly different due to irregular property boundaries. The front door of no. 56 is also original.Lower ground floorNew contemporary art galleries were built behind the two houses in 2008-09. The new galleries were excavated one and a half meters below ground level to maximize the ceiling height and required the five storey block of flats above to be propped while the new foundations were formed at the lower level. A brick path running from Artillery Lane to Frying Pan Alley was discovered during excavation. It remains undisturbed below the new galleries and corresponds approximately to the vista that runs from the entrance through the window at the rear of the new galleries.The new galleries have timber floorboards reclaimed from a Victorian bank in Fleet Street. The stair used to enter the new galleries is made of white concrete but uses a Georgian method of construction for stone cantilevered stairs in which each is supported and restrained by the one below allowing a very fine junction between each step. The handrail is sand cast bronze and is a contemporary interpretation of the handrail of the original stairs (compare the end of the handrails).StairsThe stairs date from the 1750s but parts may pre-date this. See how the bases of the newel posts have been cut. The current stair was probably _modernised_ in the 1750s to reflect the trends in interior architecture of the day. Also note how the decoration on the inside of the stringer is gradually simpler on each flight with the top floor having none at all. This reflects the status of each floor and where important guests might go in the building. Each landing once lead to rear extensions. These were demolished in 1972 to make way for the building on Frying Pan Alley. The plastic wood-effect lift interior is original, dating from 1972.First floorThe first floor front room of no. 58 has a very rare hand carved plaster ceiling. Shortly after the making of this ceiling, plaster of Paris developed sufficiently for decorative elements to be pre-cast and fixed to ceilings or walls. The carved timber paneling and fireplace surround in this room was removed in the 1920s and shipped to the US. It was exhibited as a room-set in the Chicago Art Institute during the 1930s and 1940s. The paneling was repatriated during the 1980s by the Spitalfields Trust and stored in a barn in Essex until it was re-assembled, repaired and eventually re-installed in the original room in 2008. Seventy five percent of the room was recovered. The missing part was re-made by specialist craftsmen in Brighton last year. Being in Chicago the carved timber paneling escaped the fire of 1972. The Baltic pine floorboards of the front first floor room of no. 58 are all original assembled from various other rooms in the house. Fire and charred timberIn 1972 fire raged through the building destroying several important interiors. The charred remains of the Rococo architecture provided the inspiration for the language of charred timber which has found its way back into the building in the large roof-lights and as a mould for the cast iron panels on the rear fa‡ade on Frying Pan Alley (ornate Regency cast iron railings were stolen from the original fa‡ade in the 1960s). Charred timber Process:The burning of the timber was led by project architect Takeshi Hayatsu using a traditional Japanese method. Three planks of timber are propped to make a triangular chimney held together by tape straps. A fire is lit inside at the base and burns up inside the chimney and when the flames start to lick the outside through the gaps and burn through the tape the planks fall apart and the boards are ready with a thick layer of charcoal; the process takes between three and five minutes. The charred timber is weatherproof, insect-proof, fireproof and chemically resistant.Frying Pan Alley Fa‡adeOnce the building opposite is complete, Frying Pan Alley will be wider with cafes and shops opposite the gallery. The new fa‡ade anticipates this more public future with a cast iron fa‡ade. The mould is formed from charred timber mouldings reflecting the damage of the fires to the Georgian details and the cast iron refers to the stolen railings, which once stood about the shop front.Second floorThe fireplace of the second floor front room no. 58 is one of the few remaining elements from the buildings, which occupied the site before the current ones and is thought to date from the 1690s.The unpainted oak sash windows on the second floor are the only ones not made of Baltic pine and date from the 1750s. Many of the windows are original and can be identified by the thicker mullions. New pulleys made of box wood were installed during the refurbishment.IronmongeryA star shape patterned cast iron doorknob used throughout the refurbished rooms is a regency pattern copied by contemporary ironmongery supplier IZE from an original doorknob in the Charles Brooking collection. A simple sand cast iron doorknob used in the new spaces is designed by 6a Architects, indented with a soft thumbprint and left with the texture of the sand that formed it.PaintExtensive microscopic paint analysis was carried throughout the buildings to identify how colour was used the in the last 250 years. Four different shades of white/stone colours were used in the gallery spaces. The interior of the first floor front room of no. 56 is painted in a stony colour prepared by historic paint specialist Patrick Batey (Papers & Paints) which was used throughout the interior in the 1750s. Brighter colours were used during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.http://www.ravenrow.org