The Old Manor Park Library in the London Borough of Newham is a new public space for artists, makers and people living in Manor Park.
The Library, which is a Grade II listed Carnegie building and had been unused for three years, has been redesigned by architects Nicholas Lobo Brennan and Astrid Smitham to incorporate affordable artist studios, meeting spaces and the Rabbits Road Institute, a pioneering new art space led by artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck. The centre provides support for artistic practices encompassing making, performance, research and group activities. In an area with markedly low levels of cultural engagement the project allows artists and residents of east London to connect with each other in new ways, enabling a radical new sharing of knowledge, skills and resources.
The rationale for the reimagined library was inspired by The Free Library Movement of the mid-Victorian period that developed alongside several other workers’ education movements. The Old Manor Park Library brings the ethos of the Movement into the 21st century, asking what creative practice requires today and what it will continue to need over the next decade. In a city where artists are struggling more than ever to secure affordable space to work, this project asks what it is that artists can bring to a neighbourhood through self-education, skills sharing and the re-imagining of a municipal heritage building.
Visit the dedicated Old Manor Park Library website for opening times and full event listings. The building is fully wheelchair accessible.The Old Manor Park Library is delivered in partnership by Create, Bow Arts and Newham Council. It is supported by the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund.
Nicholas Lobo Brennan was born in London. He began collaborating with Astrid Smitham in 2011 forming a studio in 2014. Nicholas also founded the collective GRUPPE in Zurich in 2011. He edits the publication Models Ruins Power, founded in Zurich in 2014. He previously worked for Peter Zumthor in Switzerland, Architecture Research Unit in London, and UNA in Sao Paulo. He studied at Chelsea Collage of Arts, Cass Faculty of Architecture and The Royal College of Art. He taught with Tom Emerson at ETH helping establish the Studio Tom Emerson live build projects. He won the Swiss Art Award for Architecture in 2012 and with his collective he was 2013 finalist for the Debut Award at the Lisbon Triennale, and nominated for this years Iakov Chernikov prize.
Astrid Smitham was born in Manchester. She studied Fine Art in the UK and Architecture at TU Berlin and ETH Zurich. She practised as a painter and screenwriter in Berlin. In 2015 she completed the construction of a house for an actor in Valais, Switzerland.