"An art college should be a blank canvas"
- Paul Williams on Central Saint Martins


World Architecture Festival 2012: architect Paul Williams of Stanton Williams tells Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs why his team designed the new campus for London art and design college Central Saint Martins as "a blank canvas" where different disciplines could "take form and ownership", in this movie we filmed at the World Architecture Festival last month.

Campus for Central Saint Martins by Stanton Williams

The project won the award in the higher education and research category and brings together all the disparate faculties of the school into a single campus constructed in and around a Victorian granary and two former transit sheds at King's Cross.

Campus for Central Saint Martins by Stanton Williams

Williams describes how they used unfinished materials such as raw timber and concrete for the walls and surfaces. "When you're creating an art college, the one thing you're not looking to do is impose a strong architectural identity," he says. "It's the actual disciplines that should create the identity."

Campus for Central Saint Martins by Stanton Williams

An internal street runs through the centre of the buildings, creating an exhibition area between the studios of each department. "We have created much more shared space, so there is less space in ownership of departments," says Williams. "It is space that can be used by all of the disciplines."

Campus for Central Saint Martins by Stanton Williams

The architect also discusses the importance of flexibility, which will allow the campus to "morph" in the future. "A lot of the areas and walls that are built are soft and they can be knocked down and reconfigured," he says. "The principle of the building is it is a stage for transformation."

Campus for Central Saint Martins by Stanton Williams

Read more about the campus for Central Saint Martins in our earlier story, or see more stories about Stanton Williams, including our interview with Alan Stanton about the Stirling Prize-winning Sainsbury Laboratory.

We’ve filmed a series of interviews with award winners at the World Architecture Festival. See all the movies we’ve published so far, including our interview with architect Chris Wilkinson about the World Building of the Year.

See all our stories about WAF 2012 »

Photography is by Hufton + Crow.

  • I should say that if you want to build any art institution then this is the best example for that. Simple and creative architecture.

  • jim

    I preferred the original building at Southampton Row, not the poor excuse for a shopping mall.

  • Dan

    Please. Southampton Row had piss on the toilet walls. It was falling apart.

  • Pierre

    The problem with this building is that it is not working at all as an art school. Would be a great space for a museum but honestly, working in it is impossible. A third of the building is an empty space. It couldn’t be colder during the winter – this huge empty space is impossible to warm up.

    I could honestly spend an hour to pin up all the bad points of this building. The only good thing is the wow effect that is produced when you see it for the first time, but spend one year in it, try to work there and you’ll see this is just a short wow effect.

  • dave

    In reference to Pierre’s comment, although there are many issues with this campus we must be aware that the campus is young. Many of the courses have not moved over yet, which explains its emptiness. As described, it is a blank canvas of sorts. In time we will begin to own the building and the character will develop (I hope).

  • Darren James Silk

    I visited there the other day and can easily see how this place was staggeringly cold, even in the warmest weather, which it was when I visited. The interior atrium is cavernous, yet feels awkward in its arrangement, especially with bizarre oriel-like windows jutting out on vertical concrete walls that seem to extend out into the space to perform nothing other than to look awkward and unrefined.

    As none of those internal windows could benefit from the atrium light as they also had concrete ‘hoods’/lintels that were in some instances metres deep for reasons unknown. What has been done to the original structure is brilliant, especially with the exposed Rogers-esque lifts. But the new additional buildings feel unwanted and grafted on cumsily. Much like the gated interal entrace to the main student areas; defined by what I can only describe as a 7ft high security gate, that not only visually obscures the rest of the atrium from the entrance but makes all visitors feel incredibly unwelcome. To be honest it visually felt more threatening than a Soviet-era border outpost.