14 March 2017 – This year, the artists of the Bluecoat in Liverpool are celebrating the 300th anniversary of their building. In 1717, Bryan Blundell established a ‘Blue Coat Hospital´. In the centuries that followed, the building was perpetually changed and expanded. In 1941, the building was hit by German bombs twice .
From 1717 onward, the building was used as school for poor children. The pupils wore blue coats. The maintenance of the building was gradually neglected. The architecture school of Liverpool University was housed in the building. There is even mention of a car showroom in the building. From mid-20th century Bluecoat Chambers became a public place which was intensively used by artists. As the oldest remaining building of Liverpool, it was Grade I listed.
When I started working on the restoration in 2001, only a small part of the NW wing appeared to be in its original state. Restoring back the entire building to its origin was no option. There were 31 different floor levels, which had to comply with accessibility regulations and had to be interconnected by lifts and ramps. It was a real design puzzle to respond to the dynamic history of Bluecoat Chambers, to solve the accessibility issues properly and to design a new wing.
In the framework of the 300-year anniversary, artistic director Bryan Biggs addresses the architecture of the building. He invited me back for a public talk to investigate the current operation of the building. I studied the history of the building again and made the series of images ‘A Concise_History of_Bluecoat_Chambers’, which will be on show in ‘the Vide’ of the Bluecoat in May.