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Inspired design.


Northampton Fishmarket

Originally built in the 1930s, the Northampton Fishmarket is situated in the heart of the town centre. Once a bustling and vibrant part of market town life, the closure of the building in 2006 was not the end of the story for this inspiring space.

Over the course of the past two years Northampton Arts Collective (NAC) an independently run, not-for-profit arts organisation has transformed the old market hall into a home for the arts and creative business. Housing several independent retail outlets, artists' studios and a cafe bar alongside two independent gallery spaces, the Fishmarket now offers visitors a truly unique cultural experience.

Featuring the largest gallery space outside a city in the UK this impressive building has been transformed into a hub for creative activity.

Following the radical changes made to the building in their pilot year, NAC managed to secure 1.5 million from East Midlands Development Assembly (EMDA) to undertake further refurbishments.

The main gallery space has benefited immensely from the new lighting whilst a simple levelling and repainting of the floors and walls has created a huge impact. New workshop and shop spaces have also been created all around the space behind the gallery walls, with a further gallery now erected in the centre. The original fish stalls have been retained at the entrance, and huge beautifully covered cushions placed atop them have created an inspiring place to sit, ponder on the artworks, or escape from the hub-bub just outside.

In addition to these central works, a number of specific areas were offered to 'up-and-coming' design companies as an 'exciting, high- profile design opportunity'. Included in this was the outside courtyard, which was to be transformed from a neglected, shabby external space, mostly used as a dumping ground and for car- parking into a multi-functional external space to be actively used by gallery and cafe visitors, and also to host outdoor film screenings and performances.

A budget of ^9920 was allocated to fulfil this, to incorporate lighting, power, a screen structure, and seating/ tables. Further funding of ^5600 was provided by the River Nene Regional Park through its green infrastructure Grant Scheme. Disabled access to the courtyard from the building had to be engineered, as a couple of steps to the sloping site made it very hard to negotiate, and functionality as a delivery yard also needed to be maintained!

Original thinking

Landscape Architects Artemis, a Northamptonshire partnership, won the bid to undertake this transformation, with their proposals to use a scaffold structure to create a 'modular' garden and 'urban oasis'.

The idea of using scaffolding was formed largely as an answer to the problem of how to achieve all this within the limited budget and timescale available (design to build was two months). Using reclaimed materials minimises both budget and environmental impact.

As these works also needed to have a semi temporary nature, due to the conditions under which NAC occupy the building, and also due to the potential catacombs/tunnel networks reported to exist under the building and all around the area, the historic walls enclosing the space, and, again, the budget, it was decided that any excavation would not be an option.

Reclaimed scaffold boards were an idea as a cost-effective method of achieving levels, a form of 'decking', and from this, the use of scaffolding and associated materials was adopted as an overall concept, its utilitarian, temporary, modular nature being totally suited to this transforming site at the heart of the town.

Seating was built into the structure itself, with scaffold boards at the appropriate height, and circular, scaffold board 'tables' also hug some of the uprights, supported by a standard scaffold clamp that can be raised up the pole and out of viewing range when screenings are taking place.

Climbers are now creeping throughout the scaffold structure, and the screen of tall, robust evergreen and semi--evergreen grasses obscuring the vehicle access creates beautiful movement, enhancing the main rigid structure.

Over the summer the space has been greatly used and prompted a number of barbeques! Artemis have already been asked to suggest ideas for incorporating a permanent bar/ barbeque area into the space, and also for a 'garden' on the toilet block roof as NAC hope to secure funding for further developments. The space has indeed inspired a local group of greenfingered volunteers to get involved in its development, even wishing to launch a plant propagation plan!! The design has a 'rough, utilitarian' edge, but there is definitely a slick, contemporary feel and coloured LED lights enhance this effect, as they wash the poles, material screens and plants in a series of ever transforming hues.



An inspired space.

Project details


Helen Lowery and Sally Mays, Partners, Artemis Landscape Architects

Construction Team: (all locally sourced companies)

Apex Scaffolding Ltd, Dave Phelps Carpentry, Chambers Electrical Services Ltd

Soft Landscaping Supplier

Covey Farm Nurseries, Chapel Brampton, Northampton


Helen Lowery and Sally Mays, Partners, Artemis Landscape Architects

Overall Budget Funding Bodies

Northampton Arts Collective ^9920 www northamptonarts. org The River Nene Regional Park CIC (RNRP) CIC 5600 [pounds sterling]


To design and build a multi-functional external space to be actively used by gallery and cafe visitors, and also to host outdoor film screenings and performances.


A proposal that utilises a scaffold structure to create a 'modular' garden and 'urban oasis which can evolve as the Arts Centre grows.


The Fishmarket, Northampton Town Centre (now a regional Arts Centre)


Design/Project Resourcing January 08-March 08 Actual Build -1 week (April 08)


Northampton Arts Collective (NAC)
COPYRIGHT 2008 Landscape Design Trust
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:REVIEW OF THE YEAR; Northampton Fishmarket
Publication:Green Places
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 22, 2008
Previous Article:A sense of place.
Next Article:Flying the flag: how Green Flag Award winners have come to benefit their local communities.

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