Wasps South Block
Over the past 30 years, WASPS (Workshop and Artist’s Studio Provision Scotland Ltd) have grown to become one of Scotland’s largest arts organisations providing affordable studio space to over 650 artists and 22 artist charities each year at 19 locations throughout Scotland.
Following a successful invited competition win, NORD designed & delivered the refurbishment & alteration of WASPS ‘South Block’ Artists’ Studios at Osborne Street, Glasgow. Developed by WASPS Creative Industries CIC, a new community interest company set up by the arts charity WASPS Studio's, the new venture at South Block becomes their first mixed use facility.
For the best part of 20 years, the city tenement block at King Street (now South block) was occupied on an ad-hoc, short-term basis by charities and was largely under used. The new fully refurbished development now provides 96 flexible studios in total offering ‘fit for purpose’ workspace environments not only for independent artists, but for visual & applied arts, cultural social enterprises and creative businesses. To date, the project has attracted over 220 people working in the creative industries, contributing to Glasgow City Council’s wider regeneration policy to consolidate and enhance the Merchant City’s reputation as a leading cultural quarter in the UK.
The project was carried out to an extremely tight budget, and aside from upgrading the existing building, a key aspiration for WASPS was to create a building which facilitated interaction between artists and creative industry professionals. WASPS were keen that the users of the building were encouraged to use all floor levels and not just the space that they rented.
The proposed strategy for the building was based on the following set of principles to create uniqueness in the identity of each floor level in order to encourage interaction between users on the different levels:
• At the heart, is a new entrance gallery space with street frontage offering tenants a flexible gathering space for formal or informal events. Contained within the gallery space is a permanent reception to the studios above, an artisan coffee bar and independent book shop, and all with the ability to accommodate a changing programme of temporary pop-up shops, and arts.
• A principle social area for use by all tenants and a kitchen facility is providing the opportunity for interaction through preparation and consumption of food.
• Left over spaces along circulation routes became planted areas. These spaces create for an unexpected experience through a meandering circulation system. They provide a welcoming retreat space or potential meeting space and display area offering tenants an opportunity to experience & discuss the different fields of creativity. Similarly, rationalised circulation areas, thresholds and window treatments provide, not only a visual hierarchy, but a coherent family of components which define the character of the individual studio workspaces.
• Window seats are also formed with integrated bookshelves which enjoy good quality of light and encourage activity in the corridor area. Different atmospheres are created on each floor by creating communal areas that encourage use through the introduction of natural light, ventilation and seating.
In an attempt to hold onto the building’s existing character a simple cost effective approach to the material palette was adopted. Where possible the existing interior building fabric was utilised and maintained, which not only enriched the buildings characteristics, but allowed for a sustainable approach to refurbishment.