The Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics is one of the finalists for the 2014 Stirling Prize. Meanwhile another recent building in London designed by the same architect, O’Donnell and Tuomey, continues to be a success – the Photographers’ Gallery in Ramillies Street. There are similarities between the two buildings in that they achieve imaginative solutions on tight constrained sites, away from main roads and positively enhance the streets in which they sit. At the Photographers’ Gallery, opened in 2012, the £9.2 million project extended and redeveloped a 19th century brick warehouse, adding flexible well-proportioned fourth and fifth floor gallery spaces on top as a bold contemporary addition and cutting away part of the façade to allow light in and views out. The café at the ground floor is run by Lina Stores, the oldest-family run delicatessen in Soho and has become a place to meet and eat while a bookshop and print gallery was created in the basement.
Currently on the top floor of the Gallery, is an exhibition of the work of Lorenzo Vitturi, who previously was a painter of cinema sets based in his studio near Dalston’s Ridley Road Market. Since 2013 he has had an ambition to record the area and its people before it becomes gentrified. Using his original skills, he creates paintings and set-pieces with found objects, photographs and discarded market materials which give a colourful and almost exotic experience “to create a unique portrait of a soon to be extinct way of life”. Here is a man who can transform rotting bananas into a work of art.
Sue Steward in the Evening Standard is enthusiastic: Walking into this exhibition is like arriving at a funfair and being dazzled by gaudy colour surges and a visual cacophony. A vast carpet greets visitors, woven by the poet Sam Berkson, with fragments of overheard street conversations printed onto it…… At first sight, this exhibition feels superficial but the playfulness soon shines through and the series emerges as a fun but also original way of preserving the market. It is, as Vitturi describes it, a “visual ode” to the community.”
Meanwhile, in another two floors of the Gallery are fascinating glimpses of Russian history and the development of colour photography in the exhibition “Primrose” which shows life in Russia from the 1860’s to the 1970’s in a country which has undergone a series of historic changes.
The exhibition demonstrates the development of photographic colour technology through hand-tinting of images, early 20th century tri-plate isochromatic photographs and autochromes, the creation of photomontage “visual utopias” for propaganda after the 1917 Revolution and then the development of the use of colour film as it became more commonplace and less expensive.
The exhibition, which is supported by the Science Museum, includes work by Pyotr Pavlov, Pyotr Vedenisov, Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, Ivan Shagin, Georgy Petrusov, Dmitry Baltermants, Boris Mikhailov and other classics of Russian photography and is part of the UK Russian Year of Culture 2014.