New Art Exchange\

Nottingham's first dedicated cultural facility for black contemporary arts

New Art Exchange was formed in September 2003 as a new organisation to steer and manage the development of Nottingham’s first dedicated cultural facility for Black contemporary arts.

The Challenge

New Art Exchange is the first dedicated African, African Caribbean and South Asian contemporary facility for the visual arts in the UK and plays a leading role within the region and beyond in supporting African/Caribbean and South Asian arts practice.

Their aim is to inspire young people to discover more about the arts though their programmes, introducing a range of art forms connecting young people with topics that are relevant to them, complementing learning in their respective schools and/or groups.

The new building would provide exhibition galleries, a café, performance and rehearsal spaces, artist-in-residence studio, arts education & work space and meeting rooms.

“Hawkins\Brown have given Nottingham a wonderful arts centre. The building delivers on so many levels and provides the community with access to a creative space which can be changed and adapted as necessary. Their contribution ensured that the project was delivered on time and on budget, which of course is no mean feat.”

Michelle Bowen, Arts Council England, East Midlands

The Big Idea

It quickly became apparent that refurbishing their existing building wasn’t a viable option and that it would need to be demolished to make way for a new structure.

The new building sits between two red brick Victorian buildings - a library and a baptist church, and has solidity and gravitas, a strong footing for the largely ethnically diverse communities who over the years have settled and made their home in Hyson Green. The design clearly and rationally expresses the piling up of the different functions of the building with the highly individualistic pattern of windows showcasing particular activities, or introducing framed views of the city and light into the stripped down performance and exhibition spaces. Built by local trade labour with help from young people from building training colleges, the simple form is efficient and cost effective.

The Small Detail

The building’s concrete frame supports a semi glazed external skin, and is distinguished from the ubiquitous red clay buildings of the neighbourhood by its black brick façade. A playful arrangement of frameless windows offers incidental and unexpected views into and out of the building.

Punctuations in the wall, for windows and doors, are treated as an opportunity to express the thickness of the wall. Windows are recessed by 1½ bricks with a brick soffit reveal formed of 25mm brick slips cast onto be­spoke designed precast concrete lintels. Other windows are set flush to enhance the appearance of depth to the recesses and provide animation across the façade.

An Artist's Perspective

As part of the on-going programme of artists engagement we collaborated with Hew Locke to produce site-specific work such as the ceiling of the ground floor café that is clad in aluminium plates screen printed with imagery of the local area. This work provided a counterpoint to the building’s rigorous rectilinear form as well as celebrating and promoting the centre’s relationship with its immediate heritage. Hew Locke continues to collaborate with in the New Art Exchange by way of mentoring and supporting local artist’s that are given a platform to exhibit their works at the New Art Exchange.

  • Project Details
  • Sustainability
  • Collaboration

Project Summary

Project Team

Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
Services and Environmental Engineer: Waterman Building Services
Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon LLP
Planning Supervisor: Davis Langdon LLP
Main Contractor: Bodill & Sons
Access Consultant: Nottingham City Council


  • RIBA Awards 2009 - National Award - Winner
  • Nottingham Civic Society Awards 2008 - Commendation
  • Nottingham Lord Mayor’s Awards for Urban Design 2009 - New Build - Winner
  • Nottingham Lord Mayor’s Awards for Urban Design 2009 - Overall - Winner
  • RICS Awards 2010 - Regeneration - Commendation
  • RICS Awards 2010 - Community Benefit - Shortlisted
  • Civic Trust Awards 2009 - Winner
  • RIBA Awards 2009 - East Midlands Regional Award - Winner


The New Art Exchange was designed from the outset with sustainability in mind. The building exists as one of only several naturally ventilated galleries in the country. The building’s fabric is well-insulated constructed of brickwork punctured utilising an array of randomly located operable windows, enabling ventilation of the interior spaces. The thermal mass of the concrete frame acts to absorb excess heat generated within the building and releasing it, when the building’s interior cools, thus minimising extreme fluctuations in the buildings internal environment, enabling a range of artwork to be displayed.


The Art Exchange commissioned extensive consultation within the community notably: A pilot master planning exercise – a creative consultation with young people in the Forest Fields, Hyson Green and Radford areas. Followed by a needs analysis for New Art Exchange based on consultation with a variety of community organizations in the area.

The process found that young people in the area recognized the need for a New Art Exchange building to replace the existing building and wanted to see a building that reflected the multicultural nature of the area, with a modern up-to-date gallery and multi-media facilities. Young people felt acutely aware of and positive about multiculturalism and diversity within their local area.

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