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Margate: Doing a Bilbao

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Will Gompertz | 11:22 UK time, Monday, 7 February 2011

The sun was brilliant, the light fantastic, and there I stood in amongst it. At the end of last week while others toiled under leaden skies, I'd taken off for brighter climes.

You have to travel to find such locations, where sun and sea unite to reveal colours that are normally hidden. And I had travelled. To the place that Turner loved more than most, for the light it gives (and for his host): a place where the French would visit and mingle with other metropolitans who too were "en vacance". Not that I expected to see them on my trip, but I hoped the sun might shine.

And it did: in buckets and spades. But then, that's Margate for you.

Admittedly it's a town that has been struggling with its image of late. Once a popular seaside resort, many holidaymakers now consider it a last resort. They say cheap flights and package holidays did her in, but Brighton, Hastings and North Berwick are all doing okay. The truth is Margate went out of fashion and stayed there. And without the free-spending tourists to put a smile on her face, she became depressed, which was bad because nobody wants to holiday with a misery.

So in an attempt to cheer the old port up, the council have "done a Bilbao". That is built a funky modern art gallery in the hope that fortune will favour a brave contemporary design. It's a bold move, but is it a wise one?


Turner Contemporary
, as the David Chipperfield-designed building is known, is a success inside and out. But then what would you expect from one of the world's most gifted living architects, who on Wednesday evening will pick up the highly-prized RIBA Gold Medal at a ceremony held in his honour. You only have to look at his portfolio of cultural projects on his website to know the man and his practice would create something special. Which they duly have while delivering the Holy Grail for any art-gallery-as-urban-regeneration-project: and that is a building you'd travel to see regardless of what it contains.

Turner Contemporary

Like Frank Gehry's muscular Guggenheim in Bilbao, or Herzog de Meuron's Tate Modern renovation, Chipperfield's Turner Contemporary is a "must visit" on architectural grounds. The views out to the North Sea are wonderful and cleverly framed. You stand on the same spot as Turner stood over 150 years ago and see what he saw and feel what he felt. Which is awe at nature's magnificence. Yes the view is great; but the northern light is sublime. Turner described the light as "loveliest in all Europe".

Turner Contemporary art gallery, Margate

David Chipperfield - rather like a composer writing an aria in an opera to highlight the voice of gifted singer - has made a song-and-dance out of Margate's greatest asset: her effervescent northern light. And once you've clocked that, everything else falls into place.

With this feature now so publicly exposed, what betting Margate becomes an artist's colony as the forest of Fontainebleau did for the Barbizon school of French landscape painters in 19th Century? Artists are like moths when it comes to light, and few places emit the transcendent wattage of Margate. Nor offer such cheap accommodation and studio space. You can get a three-bedroom flat with a limitless sea view in a respectable Victorian mansion block for a fraction of the price of a pokey bedsit in Hoxton.

Of course Margate has its downsides. The local economy took a knock recently with the closure of a major pharmaceutical business that will lift unemployment figures but not spirits. And it's not always sunny. A member of staff at Turner Contemporary told me that the sea can cut up so rough that waves smash against their lofty first-floor office windows. Clear days bring their own problems: it has been known for a navy frigate on exercises to lower her guns and lock-on to the building, which I imagine is a bit spooky. And she said that some locals are a bit Andy Gray when it comes to progressive views on the status of women.

But there is a romance to the place: part faded glory, part suggested future. The miles of sandy beaches the tourism office promotes are pleasant enough, but the North Sea is not the Med. But then they are the same sandy beaches that TS Eliot walked on early last century and wrote sections of his poetic masterpiece The Waste Land (in The Nayland Rock shelter on the beach).

On Margate Sands. I can connect Nothing with nothing. The broken fingernails of dirty hands. My people humble people who expect Nothing.
La la.
To Carthage then I came.

There's more to Margate, which you only discover when it meets yours eye. Turner Contemporary opens in April.


  • Comment number 1.

    Will Gompertz.

    "So in an attempt to cheer the old port up, the council have "done a Bilbao"."

    begs the question: why?? was Tracy Emin involved? would Margate have regenerated w/out its 'most famous daughter'?

  • Comment number 2.

    Let keep this in perspective.

    As a resident of Margate i have been totally behind the Turner Contemporary project as a sensible way to trying to 'ReBrand' Margate and give it back a new purpose, away from the traditional seaside holiday resort that, despite the out dated hopes of the older generation is just never going to cut mustard in the modern world of entertainment and lesiure that so many other places now offer.

    But claiming that Margate has managed to deliver something as genuinely unique as BILBAO! is just takign it too far. The original building that would have cost 75million would have done this but this watered down budget veriosn of a building is far from the awe inspiring architectural masterpiece claimed. I drive past this builidng everyday and whilst not the eyesore or monstrosity that may had calimed would be built, niether is it a modern day architectural wonder of the world, at best it is slightly better than average and time will tell if the clean exterior finish can last the test of exposure to the elements.

    I am afriad to say that anyone travelling to Margate to absorb the architectural splendor of this building will be sorely disappointed and should hurry on inside and hope the interior and exhibits make up for outside

  • Comment number 3.

    Never been to Margate myself, yet, but was born in Bilbao and must send my congratulations to that UK town and hope that the lives of its citizens are enlivened and enriched through art.
    Bilbao, the main city of the Basque Country/Euskal Herria, has changed quite a lot during the last 25 years, but do not be naive. The city, a traditional industrial financial and commercial powerhouse, has received billions of euros from Basque institutions in order to build not only Gehry's museum, but a metro, by Norman Foster, costly river clean up, exhibition centre, conference and concert hall, tramway, parks, highways, etc, etc. All of it paid by money raised in the Basque Country, with some help from European Development Funds. Spain has paid nothing. All of it has been decided, organised and paid by the Basques themselves. It means, locally. That is why so many Basques are anxious to get rid of the Spanish straitjacket that locks their lives, finances and well being to an undeveloped, poor, corrupt and pseudo-democratic Spain, the Turkey of West Europe.

  • Comment number 4.

    dont really see the point of this, surely they would be better off spending money on all of the town not just one building which looks like an old warehouse. very few towns and cities who invested in an art gallery have had many visitors to it. add to that why would families want to go to Margate now that hey have a gallery, surely a science museum or something similar would be far more attractive to kids, and face it when have you ever seen a child excited to go to an art gallery

  • Comment number 5.

    Whilst I'm all for embracing the arts etc, I really think that the money spent on the Turner Contemporary building could have been better spent elsewhere. For a start, whilst it would be nice to think the vast majority of Margate residents would make the most of this gallery, I suspect its only a very small percentage. Margate as a town is far from its 'glory days, with derelict buildings and a general impression of being run down and neglected. Surely it would have made more sense improving areas of the town that the majority of the Margate popluation will benefit from (like tidying up the bomb-site that is Amusement arcade riddled sea-front) Then once that has been done, look at providing additional services (such as the Turner Contermporary) to really sell this once thriving sea-side town

  • Comment number 6.

    I live in the area, and i can't imagine any other way to waste more money, apart from to throw it into the sea. Margate is an incredibly poor rundown area compared to the other towns in Thanet and Kent. Over the last 20 years, i have seen it change from a seaside town with theme park to a town full of closed shops, crime, people on benefit, teenage mums and immigrants who can't find jobs because there are none.
    So why stick an attraction that is more suited to Chelsea or Kensington? If you think its going to initiate some sort of social change, no chance. Why not rebuild the theme park (victorian style, something different from theme parks already out there), attract a wide range of classes and more people? In fact, rebuild it along with the pier. Rather than some attraction that only 0.001% of people would care to visit and would only spend an 1 hour at most in there.
    Who got the money to build this? Who gave the decision for the go ahead?


  • Comment number 7.

    It looks like another piece of moder architecture - bland and boring. They use to slag off Volvo for it's slab sided box designs, and what do we have now? Architecure at the moment is based on squares with slabs of blandess broken up with pointless cladding or colour which can't hide the unimaginativeness of the current crazes. Back in the 80's and 90's the designs of the 50's and 60's were called carbuncles but now seem to be reviving the worst of this design and calling it contemporay!
    I am glad that Margate have finally got this attraction, as it has become worn down and needed new life and reasons for people to visit. Southend across the water are planning a similar gallery and museum built into the clifts but in this current clime thats unlikely to appear for some time yet.

  • Comment number 8.

    You know, I mean, doesn't it matter that this town is trying to get itslef better. I mean, it will be great if theres good art in it and the people come and some jobs and that. Its all very well fizer closing down. Shame the streets have broken up.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think it's a good idea. I visited Margate with my family last year but we stayed in Broadstairs which is currently a much nicer play to stay. But Margate has a lot of character and although down at heel at the minute, I could see the gallery helping attract people to the resort - the small old town section nearby is actually very nice. I will be back to enjoy the gallery and spend some money at the local shops and cafes - surely all good from Margate's point of view?

  • Comment number 10.

    Re The Turner centre

    I find the Turner centre to be an absolute waste of tax payers’ money-it seems my local councillors were going to push this ugly bog standard industrial estate looking white elephant through what ever the cost.
    Lets mention that the fist proposed site for this thing washed away into the sea wasting millions of pounds, the fact that Thanet Council has pushed the Life Boat out of its home and launch site.
    “Cheap tacky art above saving lives NO THANK YOU”
    Keith Williams

  • Comment number 11.

    Bilbao is a city and Margate is a town, museums not withstanding, Bilbao is vastly more impressive architecturally and historically.
    The intention to improve Margate is admirable but as stated above, the money spent on the museum could have been used to better effect elsewhere.

  • Comment number 12.

    Wow - how can anyone even dream of comparing this to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. The building has no redeeming features, and looks like its a reclad 60's factory unit. No doubt the whole scheme will lose mountains for cash for 5 years, and then close due to lack of visitors.

    Obviously the recent government cuts have gone nowhere near deep enough.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.


    You got it the wrong way round. Margate did not become impoverished, we did. Brighton, North Berwick et al are struggling to avoid being sucked down into the grey, depressing, mediocre attitude and outlook of most of modern British society.

    Just read the comments on any forum - this included - any day of the week and discover the uninspired and utterly miserable attitude of the people of the UK.

    Virtually every story of a council or government project has to have the phrase "tax payers money" used as some pitiful attempt to deride it - usually always within the first half dozen comments.

    What a bunch of whingeing, boring and dishevelled people we are as a nation. The only discernible characteristic viewed more frequently than bitter is smug.

    I hope Margate is brightened by the new gallery. Hopefully the run-down town will get a boost. I hope it does.

  • Comment number 15.

    I wonder whether the Spanish are as negative about the world as the British? Virtually every blog so far has either complained about the cost (waste of taxpayers' money) or the architecture. You can see why many other economies are growing while ours is declining again. We have stopped being "can do" and become "can't do because......(it's someone else's fault)". OK - the architecture isn't great & certainly doesn't compare with Bilbao, but sometimes these public statements can help to jump-start regeneration (e.g. Liverpool, Gateshead) & it may be that people who come to Margate for the Turner Contemporary will spend money in the town which wouldn't otherwise have ben spent, as well as providing some additional employment. But if all the locals are decrying it & saying it was a waste of money, why should they bother coming?

  • Comment number 16.

    Retired and living in North Wales; I intended to visit Margate with a hope to move there. Building needs moving away from clock tower and iconic phone box or vice versa. The photo showing building by the water looks like Birkenheads boat building shed; and would appear to be a waste of a prime building spot. As mentioned it hard to envisage it being a family magnet. Anyway something is better than nothing. Now with most of the price of diesel going to taxes and oil being made dearer by devalueing the pound (goverment ploy to restore its value prior to next election ?) do I bother to fill the tank up or spend on heating? that is, would the trip be worth it?

  • Comment number 17.

    There's something a bit "emperor's new clothes" about some modern architecture. I just can't understand what people are raving about. It isn't partularly ugly just quite bland. Surely the greater skill would be designing something that drew on the architectural history of the town but reinterpreted it in a modern way. How will this look in 5 or ten years time when the cladding has gone grey?

  • Comment number 18.

    An intriguing and inspiring post, save for one inaccuracy. Far from being a triumph on its outside, David Chipperfield's design is, objectively, utterly utterly horrendously gash; as all modern architecture is. Fact. Apart from that a fascinating appraisal of how architecture and tourism intertwine - and the hopes for Britain's coastal playgrounds. Bet of luck to Margate.

  • Comment number 19.

    The courageous original design was thrown out through lack of money(it was said) but having driven past this new building for the last year I was hoping to see something as daring. What we get is a large shed with no external design merits at all. The cost should have been spent on the derelict areas in the town including the renovation of the famous caves, at least the whole family would benefit. I applaud the people in the old town trying to make a living there. Even Primark is considering moving to the Westwood Cross shopping centre which tore the heart out of Margate in the first place. The building should be named The Titanic as both will be known for design flaws. The architect should be made to live in the area for a few years and ask the locals what they think. He is living in dreamland if he thinks it will radically improve Margate's prosperity.

  • Comment number 20.

    What a load of negative moaners we are in this country. Turner Contemporary is not even open yet and they have already written it off. Why not celebrate the vision that is behind this gallery being sited in Margate. Other European towns would be thrilled to have a gallery such as this and view it as an asset. Be proud to have it sited in Margate. By supporting it can do nothing but good and will help put Margate back on the British and foreign tourist map again, bringing that much needed money into the local economy once more. And as to the gentleman who could not envisage taking his children to such a place, I for one cannot wait to take my children and grandchildren to visit, so they too may be inspired by the magical elements that helped make Turner and T.S.Elliot into two of the greatest artists and writers this country has produced.

  • Comment number 21.

    I, for one, wish Margate every success with the Turner Gallery. If one area in the South could do with some good fortune, Margate and Thanet would be it, especially in light of the recent news on the closure of the Pfizer research facility at Sandwich.

    Let's not all be so negative, it seems to sadly be a thoroughly British institution to always bring things down before they even have had a chance.

  • Comment number 22.

    The Turner Contemporary brings hope, new life and the chance to have a world class establishment on our very own doorstep. I do not understand the negative views. I have seen it being built, been lucky enough to view the inside and have worked with the Turner Contemporary team on various community issues. I am encouraged, both as an art lover and as a resident for all that the new gallery will bring.

  • Comment number 23.

    If anyone is daft enough to think that a white shed will be the making of Margate “well dream on”

  • Comment number 24.

    #4 "face it when have you ever seen a child excited to go to an art gallery"

    that's probably the single most ignorant comment i have ever read! children are often excited to go to art galleries. i was, as a child. i still am. perhaps by your logic funding for art galleries should be stopped as they are of no interest to the masses. perhaps instead of investing in creativity and imagination, which apparently children like, we should take all that money we devote to the arts, and give it to simon cowell. that's what the world needs more of, isn't it? entertainment aimed at the most vapid observer. personally, i'm glad children have the opportunity to spend an afternoon examining alternative thoughts from their own. perhaps a few adults could benefit from the process too.

  • Comment number 25.

    as an aside, it's remarkable how many architecture critics there are, who have never been in the building. do they not realise, architecture is internal as well as external. i haven't been in the building, it may be, ahem, "gash" but i'm certainly not prescient enough to know that, yet. and i do know a little about architecture. i wouldn't tell a surgeon how to perform a triple bypass, but oddly, every man and his big ears knows all there is to know about architecture. makes you wonder why it takes seven years before you even qualify, really.

  • Comment number 26.

    I remember when the spinnaker tower in Portsmouth was roundly decried as a waste of taxpayers money, now a great sucess. Good luck Margate

  • Comment number 27.

    Its still a dump - I know, I have been. Even the locals will tell you so.

  • Comment number 28.

    Margate died the day Dreamland was destroyed in a bid to sell the land for housing.

  • Comment number 29.

    This IS about appealing to the masses because the area is so poor and rundown, that it cannot afford to have an attraction that will attract a small number of people. It's about cost and return. In the long run, if Margate was able to rebuild itself, then fine, build an art gallery to add to what made it great, but when its on its knees, you have to make sure you are spending money the best way you can. So why not return to the theme park days etc. The people of the area know what's best, I've been here when we had Dreamland theme park and the seafront was more attractive and full of life. It was even featured on Only Fools and Horses, it was the famous and attracted so many people. Its not that we are complaining about spending money, it is we are complaining about money being spent in the wrong way.
    And by the way, it looks atrocious, there were far better alternatives and Bilbao is beautiful building.
    I don't see what being qualified as an architect has got to do with whether you are a judge of beauty or not.

  • Comment number 30.

    Margate is a town that has been allowed to run down....badly; even in the few years I have been in Ramsgate the decline of Margate has been noticeable. The central area which was once row upon row of late Georgian and Victorian build guest houses and small hotels are now mainly bedsits and houses of multiple occupation for benefit claimants. You wouldn't want to walk around the streets without keeping an eye on the is easy to tread on something undesirable. And I am still astonished by the way some local youths can include so many offensive words in what I guess is a casual conversation to them.

    But visit Margate and the surrounding area in the summer and it is a great place to spend some time. And yes the light is wonderful throughout Thanet - it regularly has some of the most spectacular cloud formation I have seen anywhere. The bulk of the people are just casually friendly and very cosmopolitan in parts; the locals seem to know how to enjoy themselves and during the summer it is one event after another in the area.

    I don’t however see the Turner Gallery as being what the area needs. It needs the collective will of the population to pull the area a sense, a ‘Big Society’ for Thanet. But in the main, the residents seem to feel that the battle is lost. Like many, I put a lot of the blame on the local council. It allowed a huge local retail park to develop…sucking the life out of the local town centres. And motorists that do venture into the towns find they are viewed as cash cows. Even now, the Council is contemplating allowing night flights from the local airport…these large cargo jets go over Ramsgate so low it is possible to see the bolts on their wheels; and buildings shake. Just what one needs for a tourist venue…a place where proper sleep is impossible.

    And long established guests houses are still closing down and being converted to one bed flats and bedsits, and developers are still getting planning permission to throw up blocks of apartments on attractive open spaces despite there being a massive over supply in the area. And the area continues to attract people on low incomes / benefits as it is a cheap place to live. It is hard to see the Turner Centre reversing this decline…..hopefully it will; but I suspect the ongoing government cut backs will more than negate any financial benefits the gallery will bring.

  • Comment number 31.

    I spent most of my childhood in Thanet Ramsgate Margate Broadstairs etc and revist from time to time. The beaches expecially the walk from Ramsgate to Broadstairs PegWell bay and so on are wonderful with the lovely braceing sea air, rock pools, fossils, King George V park and the looming white cliffs. Margate was always considered a bit gimmicky and had entertainment/attractions with the Winter Gardens Dreamland etc but has severly declined as has many victorian-esque seaside resorts. The art gallery idea is great. But the building looks like an old warehouse which one fully expects to be rusty squeaky and puddle filled upon closer view. It actually looks really rather depressing and austere from the picture on this website and shows that the building has nothing in common character with Margate town, which has lots of victorian houses, except for looking like some sort of workhouse. It lacks any kind of visual graceful quality and does not inspire any kind of awe/admiration as like other modern art gallerys. It really has nothing in common with Bilbao. What a collossal waste of tax payers money. How misguided.

  • Comment number 32.

    Just looked at the pic shown above; with the delicate white building & red phonebox contrasted against it- that building would make a pretty Art Gallery!- but the Art Gallery itself looks like it's made out of Lego. It doesn't look particularly attractive and if it had been built in the '70's perhaps it would have been knocked down already and turned into a park. Maybe a couple of palm trees infront might soften the exterior, or perhaps encase it an an eden style tropical rainforest so nobody has to look at it

  • Comment number 33.

    The determination of these naysayers that the Turner project should fail is just depressing, good old British, inverse snobbery at its worse. I live in Margate. I love it. Yes it is run down and there are many social challenges but it has so much to offer and the Turner is a real opportunity to turn Margate's rich cultural offer into a coherant package that will draw visitors in.

    There's a really good reason why arts led regeneration works - because art lovers often have disposal income. If just a fraction of the loaded Islingtonites who holiday up the road in Whitstable pop in for a look, buy a cuppa and sandwich and something in one of the lovely shops that are popping up in Margate old town, there will be tangible benefits for the whole town. Who knows, they might even like it enough to come back, particuarly when the revived Dreamland is up and running?

    Its not airy, fairy pie in the sky, its a well tried model and it worked not just in Bilbao but in Liverpool, Gateshead, Glasgow, the Southbank - the determination that it can't work for Margate, even with its exceptional cultural heritage is mystifying...

    Of course the proof will be in the pudding. The art on show counts just as much as the casing, but if the beautiful building lives up to its promise and the collection and curating really can offer a new perspective on Britain's favourite artist's work, that really will be something to be excited about and the town, and its other attractions will thrive.

    Of course community engagement in the gallery and its contents is important but if the young people of the town have a local job because of the gallery or can start a business that thrives on the back of the gallery's visitors, does it honestly matter if they never go inside? And if they happen to see some art they like as well, and know a bit more about their town's heritage - so much the better. Win, win as far as I can see....

    There is so much community driven, creative, really exciting stuff going on in Margate but as a town its confidence is sorely dented, the negativity on this page shows why.

    @ Shogun_er and others who claim to live in the area. Dreamland will reopen in 2012 as a heritage attraction that with the Turner, will complete the town's new offer for tourists.

  • Comment number 34.

    An art gallery for Margate is an excellent idea but does it have to look like a power station. To my eye the proposed building ruins the skyline and contributes nothing to the existing landscape or architecture - to me is is all utility and no delight. As a building that houses art I would like to see a building that equals the art inside. To me it looks like the sort of block building that my grandchildren make. Are there any better ideas or is this it?

  • Comment number 35.

    Just wanted to remind folks that the V&A at Dundee will open in 2014 in its incredible Kenzo Kuma building. Margate aint the only town doing a Bilbao!

  • Comment number 36.

    Crumbs, what a load of dismal, depressing people. It's no wonder Margate has gone to the dogs, if every time the council tries to create something to attract people to the place, the townsfolk all shout "No, it's rubbish here, don't bother coming." Seriously guys, nothing is going to put a dampener on your town more than you constantly whining about it.

    I work in a gallery in Liverpool that was recently (re-)built, that won a load of architectural awards, at considerable expense to the taxpayer, although to be fair it was mainly European money. It was all part of the City of Culture project that massively improved national and international perceptions of the area (as proven by a huge jump in tourism revenues that is still going on), but perhaps more importantly, our own. Now it's always been true that if there's one thing Scousers love, it's Liverpool. But there does seem to be a renewed sense of belief and enthusiasm in the city, albeit one the government are doing everything they can to stamp out. But there has definitely been an effect. People have more hope for and pride in their city, and that means they're more likely to stick around and contribute something to it. Given that Liverpool's population halved during the 1900s, hanging onto more of the talented and positive-minded people can only help. It's now one of the fastest-growing cities in Britain.

    Oh: Kids LOVE coming to our gallery. They come on school trips, and they come all through the summer. It tends to be the older folk who turn up, look at the art, and go: "That's not art!" Kids are more open minded. If they see something they think is cool, for whatever reason, they like it. They don't complain about whether or not it's a painting. And we go out into the schools and work with them, we get them doing art themselves as well as looking at it, we help them to feel that they have something to say, something positive and creative to contribute: that they are talented and valuable too. We have a team that works with some of the real gang member kids in the roughest parts of the city (as well as anyone else who wants to join in). All the big arts organisations here do that. And it makes a difference. It reduces offending and increases academic involvement. Saves on your police bill. Saves on your dole bill. We work with the soon-to-be-abolished PCTs and do stuff that actually saves on your NHS bill. Who'd a thought it - making people feel better about themselves and the world around them makes them do less damage to themselves and the world around them. Money well spent.

    And regarding the architecture. My personal opinion, from the very few pictures I've seen here, is that this one (in Margate) is probably not my cup of tea. And certainly, if I'm honest, I'm a lot less enthusiastic about our building than a lot of the architecture awards panels have been. But there are some fantastic new buildings too, some that take your breath away, like the sage in Gateshead, or the new Museum of Liverpool which I reckon is pretty striking. But Margate's never going to have the money to build a full-size Norman Foster, so what are you going to do? I'm a lot more interested in what they put inside it.

  • Comment number 37.

    Yes Adam the V&A in Dundee is incredible - people will go just to see the building and I imagine it will still impress people in 200 years time.

    But can the same really be said about this? Its an eyesore now, and it will be more so in 10 years time. It will be hard to knock down due to the architects name - so its not just an eyesore, but one that they're stuck with!

  • Comment number 38.

    I am a designer and I like many of David Chipperfield's buildings. He is indeed a world class architect.

    However, I think he was having a bad day at the office when he designed this. Either that, or the bean counters managed to water down the original design so much that it has become boring and meaningless. Almost tacky. I certainly won't be rushing to Margate any time soon.

    Bilbao? I think not.

  • Comment number 39.

    I live in Hull although my wife is from Margate and we visit relatives once or twice a year these days and i always look forward to coming down to Kent.

    The millenium project known as the Deep has been a big success in my home city and it is to be hoped the Turner Museum will similarly provide the impetus to kick start the regeneration of Margate.

    The place has bucket loads of potential and a climate that constantly reminds me of northern France - certainly far warmer than the East Yorkshire coast whatever the time of year!

    As other posters have commented I too was disappointed the original project did not go ahead due to spiralling costs and hope in any event this scaled down project will entice visitors from far and wide.

    Ignore the locals they whinge whatever place you care to talk about.

  • Comment number 40.

    "What a waste of money yadda yadda yadda" "Why are people so pessimistic blah blah and so-on"
    As someone who grew up in Margate and will be "Margate till I die" for better or worse, all I hope is that the gallery cheers the town and its' people up a bit! And, helps them appreciate Margate a little. Having lived in other parts of the country and of Europe, I can honestly say that lots of "Thanetians" don't know how good they have it. Of course there are lots of things wrong with the area, but, instead of moaning, maybe locals could get behind something intended to bring people,money and interest to the area.Or not,and we could all be utter miseries together!

  • Comment number 41.

    It looks best from the end of the pier looking back to the shore but unfortunately that is not the view most people will get when they first see it. The Horsebridge centre in Whitstable has a lot more style with its boatshape roof and nautical theme which relates to the sea. If the front of the Turner centre had a curve to it like a wave then it would look less block like. Turner's paintings were subtle in style and blended emotions. This building is also out of scale with its surroundings. I am no Prince Charles and like a lot of modern architecture-look at the graceful Millennium bridge and the Peckham Library. Its the first time that I thought some graffiti might improve a building. I do hope that the contents bring much needed money to the area though.

  • Comment number 42.

    Oh, I really do hope the Turner Gallery helps the area - but what an eyesore!!! and it's even worse when you actually drive past the place - no real style at all :-(

  • Comment number 43.

    I have lived in Thanet all my life, I grew up being able to see the Margate coast and the site on which the Turner now sits from my bedroom window. Yes, as an area we have our economic problem but would Margate have secured this money for another project? Probably not. This is one of the best things that could have happened to our area. Those who know the town will have witnesses the new businesses that have sprung up in the old town, new restaurants and bars. Better still it has got people talking about the town, not just articles like this raising national presence but local people discussing their asperations for Margate. Well done to TDC and to all those business, new and established who have shown their faith in the town.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm actually shocked by some of the negative things people have said here about Margate, here is some positive press about it and someone encouraging people visit and all the 'locals' can do is put it down, do you actually want Margate to improve! I live in Canterbury and shall be visiting the gallery despite your comments, if we're talking about wasting tax payers money what about all the young pregnant mums claiming benefit who live in Margate! I'd rather see tax payers money being spent on a gallery myself.

  • Comment number 45.

    The best thing about Margate was always the Dreamland Amusement Park [long closed down] and the beach in summer,one of the best in Britain.Of course everyone started eschewing British resorts for the reliable sun of the Med by the 70's but since Dreamland was run down and closed,the flow of daytripper visitors seemed to dry up even more and the whole town seemed to die. In the 1960's summers Margate was a great place for everyone,busy,vibrant,even a tad exciting on a weekend night....People down from London,young and old,families and teenagers out to meet others and have a good time without it costing a fortune.

    I am not sure a modern art gallery really gets the point of Margate's raison d'etre,which was based around summer holidays,the beach and the amusements. But I suppose it will bring a new kind of visitor and maybe encourage a new kind of vibrancy with artists moving there,so it can't be bad for the dear old lady that Margate has become.

  • Comment number 46.

    It looks hideous. They would have done much better by rebuilding the pier.

  • Comment number 47.

    Margate has been a depressed area for so long. The High Street has very many closed down empty shops and has generally an untidy decrepit look about it.
    The Turner Contemporary Gallery ‘might’ bring many visitors to the area, but what do they do for the rest of their visit. There are only a few nice other places to go, and for eating, even fewer.
    One always hopes that this Gallery will survive, but what of Margate?
    I think the Thanet District Council have a lot to do in a short time. They will not succeed because they never do. I think the Kent Council must take over to cover any inefficiencies the Thanet District Council may incur.

  • Comment number 48.

    Maybe all the negative commenters above should wait until they've actually been inside the gallery - as I have - and then they can judge how amazing an architectural feat it actually is. And for those not so taken by the architecture itself, how about waiting and judging it on its content? This too, I can assure you, is going to be fantastic.

  • Comment number 49.

    Though the gallery itself is located near to some pleasant features (Winter Gardens, old town) Margate as a whole is so impoverished that the gallery on its own will struggle to improve the fortunes of the town. I believe Margate has one of the highest rates of shop vacancies in the country.

    If or when Dreamland is re-established, then a combination of the two attractions could reinvigorate the area. Furthermore, if Mr Chris Huhne were to follow his pre-election plans of taxing cheap air flights then perhaps the tourism industry as a whole in Thanet could receive a boost.

  • Comment number 50.

    Margate does hold a special place in my heart - I grew up in Thanet so much of my time was spent there.
    Like any sensibly minded person who didn't really have a particular direction, I left at the first opportunity.
    I suppose marks for effort are due - Thanet has constant ups and downs, it's just that the downs seem to get deeper and deeper each time they come round.
    I live in Edinburgh now, and I must say that in the pictures of the gallery that Will has used in his article, I am forced to draw comparisons with the cement works at Leith. Not too many marks for achievement then.
    Maybe it is better from the inside as other posters have written; I shall reserve judgement.
    What I do not reserve judgement on is the faceless glass/metal boxes that seem to be the archtectural fashion at the moment that will all be torn down 40 years from now, just like the faceless concrete boxes of the 1960s and 1970s are being torn down now...

  • Comment number 51.

    Being a Margate resident I have come to love the Turner. What seems to some a boring boxy piece of modernism is in fact an alive and ever changing reflective edifice. It seems to dialogue with the elements and I have seen it change from light blues (on a snowy day) to rich creams with orange hues. To all those who hark on about it being a waste of Tax payers money I ask how do you know this? Do you have the power to see into the future. The Gallery is not just a building, it is at heart the people who work there, the residents and visitors who become involved in art projects and come away from them changed. It is Story telling and quiet times. It can be a retreat and a place to marvel at the elements while staying warm. It is a place to see and interact with Art, others and ourselves. In short it will be whatever we want it to be. We decide if we wish to interact with it, to grab the opportunities it offers us. And it does offer us opportunities, all we need to do is be open enough to see them.

  • Comment number 52.

    'Vacance' doesn't exist as a word. It always has to be in the plural.

  • Comment number 53.


  • Comment number 54.

    I noticed Whitstable has been mentioned a couple of times previously. This was also a town that was pretty run down (yes I know, hard to believe it when you look at it now), I should know I spent the first 30 years of my life there...up until 2001 when it started to become 'trendy'. How did Canterbury Council regenerate the building a huge Art Gallery? No....they simply improved the run down parts of the town (the Horsebridge area which used to be a derelict car-park, and knocking down the assembly rooms) They built the Horsebridge centre, which provides many functions (community center, a live music venue, and shock of shocks somewhere to host art exhibitions), that everyone will benefit from, restaurants that appeal to the locals and the tourists and capitalised on the closeness to London.

    This is what I feel Thanet council should have done, investing heavily in the town (not just the old part, which I admit does look good) The Turner Contemporary should have been an after thought, especially when a greater percentage of the town is dying (which is the case for a lot of towns in the south east of the country)

  • Comment number 55.

    Build it and they will come.

    Forget what the building looks like (I do have my own reservations) arty people will want to come and see the contents if not the structure itself. Do people visit any other museum or gallery because of what the building looks like?

    I've actually no idea who funded this but we'll have to wait and see how well it works, but it's one of those things that I hope may get the ball rolling..

    Like, oh, the regeneration of the Dreamland fun park? Which has actually begun (already fully funded and committed as I understand), the restoration of the building, rides and the conversion of the cinema to a live performance venue.

    The shabby sea front exterior should be fixed with some cash to smarten up the closed shop fronts, this wouldn't be difficult. I imagine that once Dreamland is finished and Turner brings up the tourist visitor numbers that these units won't stay empty for long once someone decides that they will make perfect cafes and restaurants, etc.

    The old town area is lovely, Margate is already a very arty place if you open your eyes and see the number of galleries in the old town.

    There are always local events of some description running if you want to go out and find them. So the notion that Margate is just simply some desolate wasteland inhabited by hoodies and asylum seekers is ignorant at best and plain simply deceiving at worst.

    I live outside Margate so I can't dispell some of the negative comments made but I think there is some promise for the town if you open your eyes to it..

    Or I suppose you can sit at home in front on your screen saying how crap the world is, I know which I'd rather do.

  • Comment number 56.

    Following my initial comment #3#

    I would just like to agree with everyone who has had something positive to say about Margate. It is a great place with plenty of positive things going for it, most noteabley the beach and coastline.

    But lets remember the point of the original articale, that claimed that this building was somehow some sort of architectural masterpiece.

    It is all well and good those of you that claim the inside is or will be brilliant, it may well be the case, but we can not get away from the overiding fact that this building by virtue of its siting in probably the most prominent and important location within the seafront landscape had a civic 'OBLIGATION' to be an icon and stunning visual feast for the eyes.

    I for one will be visiting the gallery and enjoying the exhibits, but we must not forget that the majority of the visitors to Margate will not be entering the building, most of them will remain in Margate sands eating ice cream, and building sand castles and enjoying the good weather. For them the exterior is all they will experiance of the Gallery and for most visitors to Margate the building will appear i am afraid to say very ordinary and boring.

    I am so disappointed that the architecture is not more inspiring, we may have Chipperfields name but i bet you won't see this appearing in his portfolio of work.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    I've owned a lot of property in Margate over the years and I own a big place in the Old Town at the moment so it would be greatly to my advantage if there was a regeneration of the town.
    I've have been waiting to see what the new Turner Center would look like in the flesh and there can be no doubt that its external appearance is a great disapointment.No doubt it will win prizes from the architect's friends.
    I can only hope that the interior of the building will outshine its exterior.
    Perhaps the bland external surfaces can be used for projection art to make the whole place interesting at night.
    Prince Charles won't like it.


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