London practice ZMMA has transformed the childhood home of artist Thomas Gainsborough in Sudbury, Suffolk, into a gallery and museum with a material palette of redbrick and flint informed by his landscape paintings of the local area.
Born in 1727, Gainsborough spent his childhood in Sudbury before moving to London to study painting, and his depictions of the scenic Suffolk landscape saw him become a central figure in the British Landscape School.
The £10 million transformation of Gainsborough House, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, saw ZMMA restore the heritage-listed Georgian townhouse where Gainsborough grew up alongside the creation of a new three-storey building.
The existing buildings, which have served as a museum since 1962, now house new galleries and a study centre, while the adjacent Weavers Lane Cottages have also been reconfigured to created a new print workshop and cafe overlooking a walled garden.
“The physical transformation of Gainsborough’s house will fundamentally change this historic site, enabling it to become an international centre for Gainsborough and a cultural hub in the heart of East Anglia,” said the museum’s director, Mark Bills.
The new building provides four gallery spaces, culminating in a flexible space for learning and events on the third floor which features a camera obscura for looking out across the Suffolk landscape.
Drawing on the palette of Gainsborough’s landscape paintings, ZMMA designed the building with a flint and weathered steel base, supporting an upper volume clad in red brick.
The brickwork has been finished with a “woven” texture, informed by Sudbury’s historical silk-weaving industry, while the garden of the adjacent cottage is wrapped by a “crinkle-crankle” brick wall.
“The powerful connection between the landscape surrounding Sudbury and its representation in Gainsbourg’s work inspired us to create a new gallery building whose clay and flint materials are brought directly from Gainsborough’s Suffolk landscape,” said Adam Zombory-Moldovan, project director at ZMMA.
“Sudbury’s silk-weaving led us to make brickwork facades that appear woven, and to silk-line a new gallery for Gainsborough’s grandest canvases,” he continued.
The interiors of the existing building remain true to their historical use, displaying paintings alongside original pieces of furniture.
In the new building, the darker ground floor gallery is lined with Sudbury silk damask wallpaper and features parquet floors, while above, more traditional white-walled gallery spaces sit underneath a zig-zagging ceiling punctured by skylights.
Suffolk’s rural landscape has been the site of several recent homes that make the most of its impressive views, including a steel-framed home by Norm Architects and an off-grid, barn-style dwelling by Studio Bark.
The photography is by Hufton + Crow.
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