Southampton Civic Centre: Art Gallery and Library Café

Hello there!

This post is long overdue, however the final year of University was a hard one and I found I didn’t have time to update my blog. I also didn’t want to post my design up on here before my client got to see the design.

This assignment was a live project through Southampton Solent University with Southampton City Council in my second year, where we each had to design a café either in the art gallery upstairs in the Civic Centre and downstairs in the entrance or inside the library. The design had to be removable and not affect the building’s Grade 1 listing, as it is a heritage site that needs protecting.


The Art Gallery Café:

art gallery concept board update

My concept for the Art Gallery Café was inspired by the city’s location near the sea and how it used to be the main port for trading before the World Wars. I wanted to create a calming and relaxing scheme in the gallery, where the cafe’s design wouldn’t distract from the artwork itself, but it could be a place where visitors can side and admire the inside architecture details and artwork whilst enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee or tea and a slice of cake. I chose sea inspired colour to help further create a relaxing environment, and brought in the coral for a fun pop of colour.

art gallery product board update

I wanted there to be lounge areas where families and friends could sit and relax, as well as seating around tables or bar tops where people may want to have a quick lunch or stop for a drink. I also wanted there to be an area where children can sit when families visit, where they can read books and take part in crafty activities, as the gallery hosts little arts and crafts events for children and schools. The driftwood coffee table and circular mirrors are meant to represent bubbles and link to the ocean theme I was going for, as well as the accents of blue, grey and turquoise in the furniture and decorative accessories.

Here are the visuals! I am happy with the layout of the space. I made sure that there was enough space and wheelchair access to the country and that the children’s area was on another side. I placed bar tables and stools at the back of the dome. I painted the boards that wrap the pillars coral, which meant that it is removable or could be painted back to white, this also meant that mirrors could be hung. The counter is made completely out of wood and is placed near the door at the back that has all the electrical machinery it needs for a working till. If plumbing is required for a dishwasher or sink to clean plates, the kitchen part of the cafe would be hidden behind the painted pillar next to the counter so that it was out of sight and could also then be reverted back to normal, as it would not be seen.


The Library Café:

library concept update

As you can tell by the title, I chose the Library space for where my second café would be. This is because it made a lot more sense to place it there, resulting in the prevention of the entryway being blocked by queues for the café counter, and in the winter, customers wouldn’t be getting cold from the draft of the entry doors. For my concept, I really wanted to play on the idea that the café would be inside a library and but also celebrate British literature and author’s that lived in or near Southampton, such as Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll. Also due to the location of the library, I could use more colour in the space as it wouldn’t be distracting from any artwork, but it still had to also be easily removable.

library product board update

I am a purple fanatic, and I feel that it’s quite a luxurious colour. I wanted to add pops of colour the space by using yellow as a complimentary colour, coral to link to the art gallery cafe, but used grey to stop the design from being too out there and in your face. I wanted mixed wood to add to the library feel and theme, as well as upcycle/decoupage the coffee table tops, lampshades, vases, etc with pages from old, ruined books to add to the library and literary theme. I thought it would be a great community activity to have children or artists from the area to create book sculptures based on British literature or the history or location of Southampton that could be displayed in the bookshelves and in the front of the counter, and that the gallery could hold a small exhibition of the sculptures in the main entrance. This would then help bring visitors to the gallery and library.

I used the shelves as a divider between the cafe and the library, but the shelves would have book sculptures as well as books to red displayed in them. The children area would have children’s books in them to be read. The walls between the windows will have book pages displayed with quotes from characters in British literature displayed in them and the wall at the back of the servery counter will display a quote from Jane Austen herself that reads “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading.” Behind that wall is a room hidden from the public eye where they would prepare food and have a kitchen installed, however it would still need to be removable and not affect the building physically any way.

I am very happy with these designs and I feel the library design could be very successful even as a stand alone café! My clients were happy with the placements of furniture and counters especially due to the building’s heritage and how if they were to go through with the build of a café inside, they felt my placement of the counters and even the library café placement would be very successful.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you for reading!

Danica x

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