Anish Kapoor Studios
By Nina Tory Henderson
Sir Anish Kapoor is known for his prolific practice. It spans scales, processes and mediums from architecturally scaled installations to painting. The architecture of his renovated studios in south London reflects this diversity: a series of seven studios that vary dramatically in scale and function. Each space is designed around a specific act – forming, finishing, testing, painting, drawing, documenting, archiving – each with a distinct atmosphere responding to a material or process.
The studios total to 3,100 square metres, ranging from 9 metre high warehouse spaces to intimate mezzanine studios, accommodating varying modes of practice. Although each studio is distinctive to the process or material it accommodates, all are designed to be highly flexible, having the ability to morph with Kapoor’s practice. Each space is simultaneously specific and open in use.
Studio I contains three distinct interior spaces. An existing concrete slab was removed to create a massive warehouse space for the display and exploration of large works. Additional height was gained through the addition of a high-level clerestory window, which naturally lights the space from the north.
The more intimate upper floor of this studio is for works on paper and painting, visually connected to the lower warehouse through a large cut-out. A small glass box on the ground floor acts as an office and meeting area – raised a few steps above floor level, it is clearly distinguished from spaces of making.
In Studio V, several exposed steel I-beams run underneath the new roof, each of which can individually take a load of 3 tonnes for the suspension of large artworks.
Studio VI and VII provide spaces of a scale and materiality closer to that of a typical gallery environment. These more neutral spaces can be used as a testing space for the display of artwork and exhibition layouts.
The studios are diverse in scale and function but they all share the incessant spirit of the studio, which for Kapoor is the vitality that comes from exploration:
|The studio is a space of experimentation… it’s about allowing things to emerge”|
Kapoor has worked on this site for the last 20 years. The practice he has built up over this time is literally inscribed on the building’s surfaces. Throughout the renovation original walls were left unfinished and raw, where old sketches and marks remain visible. In keeping this roughness, the studios remain robust spaces for making, where perfect finishes would hinder Kapoor’s practice.
Enhancing this sense of the workplace, openings were designed to provide a calm, internal world free from external distraction. Natural light is brought in through high level windows or skylights and many existing low-level windows were blocked up. Where new windows have been inserted, they carefully frame the surrounding urban fabric – onto trees where one can view the changing seasons or the surrounding London rooftops.