Richard Murphy Architects
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Dundee Contemporary Arts

Dundee Contemporary Arts

Dundee Contemporary Arts forms a major part of the re-establishment of the cultural identity of the City of Dundee. It has succeeded in making a public arts venue which is inclusive and enticing and encourages interaction between the public and many forms of visual arts. To quote the Sunday Times "It is one of the most satisfying, sublime and stylish public buildings opened in years". This was one of the most complex projects that the practice has completed.

The practice won the project competition in July 1996. From the outset the aim of our scheme was to group all activities; galleries, cinemas, printworkshops, shop and research facilities, around a central social space and cafe. The building partially reuses the brick warehouse of the former Macleans garage and forms an 'L' shaped plan on a site which falls 3 storeys from front to back. The cafe and foyer sit at the internal corner of this 'L' and are therefore at the heart of the building in plan and section.

The site has a very narrow street frontage between the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Georgian house of the Clydesdale Bank. In order to draw visitors into the building we aligned the foyer on the Tay Street opposite so that it might form an extension of that public realm into the building; we set the entrance back below a dramatic canopy and beside the shop (the commercial face of the arts activities within) to give a breathing space to the street edge and a presence to the approach, and finally we made use of continuous rooflights to cast sunlight and shadow across the internal walls of the foyer drawing the eye to the furthest part of the plan.

This theme of the use of light is continued by the use of windows to give glimpses of the Tay estuary to the south and also between foyer and cafe and galleries and cinemas. The aim is to entice the visitor to see an exhibition or a film when they might have come only for a coffee, to draw them in without their feeling the need to specifically come for a show, and to help everyone understand where they are in the building and where everything else is. Even the main cinema has a large window below the screen allowing the audience to be connected to Dundee before and after the film and allow the external world a glimpse of the interior at the same time. This is part of the idea of the building as part of the city as a whole. Everything is visible from either the internal street or the cafe/bar. The street is supported by the necessary ancillary facilities and behind the scenes by a double height office space.

Adjacent to the cafe and visible from it is the world of the printmakers, placed there as an enticement to participate whilst beneath is the two storey "engine room" of the university facilities grouped around a double height experimental gallery.

Finally the language of the building grows out of the idea of inserting the new facilities within the eroded shell of the former brick warehouse. New building slips past the old in a series of planar elements of copper glass and steel. These planes then become a language of the new wing beneath a single unifying roof profile and are repeated in sliding doors and walls internally.

Since its opening the building has been a phenomenal success attracting more than three times the number of visitors expected.

Other Details
Architects Richard Murphy, Bill Black, James Mason, Edward Hollis, Oliver Chapman, Will Tunnel, Alan Grey, Brent Railton, Ian Strakis
Engineers ARUP Scotland
M&E Engineers ARUP Scotland
Quantity Surveyor Thomson Bethune
Acoustic Engineers Sandy Brown Associates
Colour Consultant Linda Green, Studio Green
Contractor Torith Construction Ltd
Construction Cost £6.1m
Client Dundee City Council

1999 Regeneration of Scotland Supreme Award
2000 RIBA Award
2000 Civic Trust Award
2001 D.I.A. - Commendation
2007 Dundee Institute of Architects - Building of the Decade Award

  • September 201620 Years f Award Winning Architecture in DundeeDundee Institute of Architects - DIA20Y Book
  • February 2011An Artistic DiscoveryProperty Executive
  • February 2011Dundee Contemporary Arts CentreThe Arup Journal, Millenium Issue 1
  • 2000KunstaraDeutsche Bauzeitschrift
  • January 2000Murphy Reigns SupremeProject Scotland
  • 19 December 1999Review Of The YearSunday Herald
  • December 1999When Material Meets TransparenceAcciaio Arts Architettura
  • December 1999Richard Murphy Takes Regeneration Supreme AwardChartered Architect
  • October 1999Best Architects Go Head To HeadProject Scotland
  • August 1999DundeeArchitectural Review
  • July 1999Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre (specifiers Choice)AJ Focus
  • June 1999The Art HouseThe Scotsman
  • Summer 1999Dundee Contemporary ArtsAhss Magazine
  • May 1999Discovering ArtArca Issue No. 1
  • 22 April 1999Murphy's MagicArchitects' Journal
  • April/May 1999Inspriration: Dundee's New Arts CentreArtwork
  • 26 March 1999Vertical HoldBuilding Design
  • 21 March 1999Beautiful VisionScotland On Sunday
  • 7 March 1999Dundee's Rpime Example Of Good ArchitectureThe Sunday Times
  • March 1999Prime Example Of IngenuityGlasgow Herald
  • 28 February 1999Striking A Post Industrial PoseSunday Herald
  • Winter 1999Generations (regeneration Of Scotland Award)Prospect
  • Summer 1999Centre For An Art LoverProspect
  • 1999Contemporary Arts Centre In DundeeArchis
  • December 1998Glasgow Was Miles Better But Here Comes DundeeThe Scotsman
  • Ocotber 1998Urban Space And Fresh IdeasThe Herald
  • 1997New Work/future VisionsBritish Architecture
  • 15 July 1996£8m Arts Centre Design DecidedEvening Telegraph
  • July 1996Hi-tech Village For DundeeScotland On Sunday
  • Spring 1996Richard MurphyArq
  • August/September 1996Chance Of Re-discovery Of DundeeArtwork
15 Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1RW | Tel 0131 220 6125 |