Open Eye Gallery

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

This presented a unique opportunity for the gallery to become the key cultural destination within the Mann Island development, with increased exposure and visibility bringing photographic arts to a wider audience.

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 6 years from its previous home.

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, taking advantage of the covered public realm.

Client Organisation: Open Eye Gallery

Construction Value: £440,000

Completion: 2011

Location: Mann Island, Liverpool

Photography: Mark McNulty