Public BuildingsOpen Eye Gallery

Upending conventional gallery design to improve access to the arts.

RCKa was commissioned to design a new home for the Open Eye Gallery on Liverpool’s historic dock front which had outgrown its former home in the city centre.

Commissioned at a time of arts’ funding cuts, our collaborative design process focused on innovative ways to balance the gallery’s needs for curatorial control, with open and engaging spaces better able to attract funding. A steering group with representatives from northern art centres such as the Tate, Ceri Hand and Liverpool Museum and Biennale was established, which led to our suggestion of a fourth public gallery space that transformed the external elevation into a canvas and connected back to the City. This has been incredibly successful and helped secure a significant increase in funding and a 500% increase in visitors, resulting in more sales from the shop in its first month of opening than sold in over six years from its previous home.

First month's revenue from shop was greater than total from previous six years

500% increase in visitor numbers in first year of opening

Footfall increased from 11,000 to 600,000 following the gallery's opening

In close consultation with the Open Eye Gallery board and architect of the Mann Island development, Broadway Malyan, the scheme was developed to better suit the brief of the gallery and the wider regeneration strategy. The design was subject to considerable consultation with Liverpool City Council’s planning department to ensure that the gallery’s objectives were in alignment with the site masterplan. Whilst core design principles remained throughout the engagement process, the final proposals were subject to numerous refinements as a result of these discussions.

We recognised the need to make the gallery more accessible and public-facing, and with this in mind pushed the gallery spaces to the edges of the plot, moving the entrance to face the primary pedestrian route through the wider development to increase visibility and improve footfall bringing photographic arts to a wider audience.

Open Eye Gallery


Mann Island, Liverpool

Project Team
Tim O’Callaghan
Tim Riley

Mark McNulty

Project list