Newcastle University is opening a new centre for architecture and cities this weekend.
The £4.6m project, which includes a public gallery with free admission, is part of the university’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, and is in a four-storey Victorian building in central Newcastle. It is named after architect Terry Farrell, who recommended in a 2014 report on the built environment that every city should have an “urban room” where local people can go to learn about the past, present and future of where they live.
As well as the gallery, the Farrell Centre features a research hub and community space. The centre’s programme will include temporary exhibitions; public talks and debates; workshops and activities for schools, young people and community groups; events for built environment professionals; as well as publications, podcasts and other digital projects.
“In a world defined by profound environmental, social and technological rupture and transformation, the potential of architecture and planning to create a more inclusive, democratic and sustainable world has never been more important,” said Farrell Centre director Owen Hopkins, a former senior curator of exhibitions and architecture at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London. “Rooted in Newcastle, but with a frame of reference that’s global in scope, the Farrell Centre offers a vital new platform for debating the future of architecture and planning, ensuring that everyone has a voice in this critical conversation.”
Hopkins said that there will probably be two exhibitions a year, plus smaller displays as well.
"We are keen to work with partners, whether that is taking existing shows that have been elsewhere or sending out our own exhibitions as well," he said. "One of the challenges will be finding projects that work in our spaces – we have large windows that make us very visible from the outside but that does mean there are conservation challenges."
The building has been designed by local architects Space Architects and Elliott Architects. Reflecting Newcastle University’s stated mission to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2030, the project aims to be an example of how historic buildings can be sensitively transformed while dramatically improving their energy performance.
The inaugural exhibition, More with Less: Reimagining Architecture for a Changing World, offers a new vision for architecture in the face of climate emergency, showcasing innovative installations by four UK-based architects.
Farrell grew up in Newcastle and studied at Newcastle University. He has worked on several major projects in the city, including the Centre for Life (2000), the Newcastle University campus masterplan (2004) and the extension to the Great North Museum (2009). In 2018, he donated his practice archive to Newcastle University as a resource for research and public engagement and agreed to give £1m towards the creation of the Farrell Centre.