JHG Footprints Theme 1: Location and Architecture

Richard Nonas, installation view from the exhibition, Crude Thinking/Thick Making, 1995. Site specific installation with railway sleepers and slates. Photo: Steve Shrimpton

JHG Footprints is a campaign throughout March and April using John Hansard Gallery’s archive. Four themes will be selected, each running for a fortnight, during which time we will be posting content from artists and exhibitions associated with the chosen concept.



Theme 1: Location and Architecture

“The John Hansard Gallery building at the Highfield Campus was unique and distinctive. In its early days, with its dominating dark brown, deep-beamed ceiling, it barely contained a single right angle. Years of time, energy and creative adaptation shaped an ever-evolving and ever-surprising building, which both delighted and challenged in equal measure. Its very existence was rooted in the geography of the Solent; a unique building that was totally of, and embedded within, its location. The significance of its past purpose as a tidal research centre, and its curious triangular footprint proved inspirational to many, whilst others like to push and test the building structure itself to its limits. Ideas around the essence of location, place, and architecture recurred throughout the programme.

An architectural feature that was retained throughout the entire life of the building was the curved wall – one of the Gallery’s most famous features. Often the first space a visitor would encounter, it was a key area that set them on their journey around an exhibition. Artists and curators relished the opportunity to use that space to its best, either utilising the actual curve itself, or using the unique space that it created.

Over the years exhibitions opened and closed, but each left their trace on the building and on those that followed. Years of paint, layered like geological strata, and structures built for one, adopted and re-utilised for another, all combined to create its own kind of archaeological history. Every exhibition was unique, and each left its own footprint in the sand.”

Ros Carter, Head of Programme (Senior Curator)
Joined John Hansard Gallery in 1991

Glen Onwin, installation view, A Chamber of the Moon, 1991 – the first exhibition to specifically refer to the building’s history, incorporating water collected from the Solent by the Director at the time, Stephen Foster. Photo: Steve Shrimpton
Back to top