Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Creative space

My post about the sense of responsibility which comes from being an artist is due for a follow-up sometime soon, and that will deal with the practicalities — the needs of working artists. As a way of leading into that, I thought I’d post about a new centre in the English Lake District which is partly a research centre and partly a present to readers, writers and artists which provides a truly conducive environment for their work.

The Wordsworth Trust, an organisation set up to promote and conserve thematerial and literary legacy of William Wordsworth and his associates, recently opened its new Jerwood Centre. (NYT link - go to bugmenot for a username and password.) The building provides excellent storage facilities for 90% of his manuscripts, as well as reading and writing facilities for those who need them. It is the building which attracts me.

It is a long barnlike building with a circular rotunda attached, all faced in the local slate to ensure that it blends in — as it is obliged to in a National Park — with the surroundings and other buildings nearby. The reading rooms in the barn and rotunda are airy and light. (Photos are attached in the links.) And best of all: a couple of minutes’ stroll down the lane is Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived and worked.

Napper Architects’ design is also important in that it shows how a national collection can be located successfully in a village, while demonstrating how local building traditions can be developed imaginatively leading to new building types that work with heritage culture without being subservient to it. The use of materials here is exemplary; the Jerwood Centre belongs to Grasmere, while bringing something freshly creative to the Lakeland village, just as William Wordsworth did 200 years ago.

Although very crowded from Easter onwards with daffodil-loving tourists, the roads contain enough twists and turns to ensure that this centre is within easy reach of the bustle as well as being secluded from it. What any writer needs. Heaven.

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