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Topping Out Ceremony

On Wednesday 3rd July, Plymouth College of Art hosted a 'Topping Out Ceremony' to celebrate a milestone in the construction of their brand new, state of the art, craft and digital workshop block.

On Wednesday 3rd July we hosted a ‘Topping Out Ceremony’ to celebrate a milestone in the construction of our brand new, state of the art, craft and digital workshop block.

Contemporary crafts are evolving rapidly, and today’s designer makers are combining traditional craft skills with the use of ever sophisticated and increasingly cutting edge digital technologies. It’s an exciting time for the college with the first phase in the new build project due to open in September 2013. Students and staff will have access to new workshops and studio spaces, a range of new equipment and a purpose built state of the art building.

The ceremony marked reaching the highest point of the building in the first phase of the project. Principal Professor Andrew Brewerton and Chair of Governors Ivan Sidgreaves took part in the ceremony along with students Jane Mooney and Ryan Kerslake who were involved in the ‘cutting of the turf’ at the start of the project in September 2012. Project Manager Steve McShane from Mansells, contractors for the project, presented the college with a yew tree, a traditional symbol for good luck.

The project has been financed through a £2.5m grant from the Skills Funding Agency and a £3.5m loan, with the rest coming from the College’s own pocket. This huge investment comes at a time when many education facilities are taking the decision to deinvest in craft facilities, with a number of colleges across the country closing their craft related courses.

Professor Andrew Brewerton, said, "As an independent Art College committed to purposeful mutual partnership, we are investing in high quality industry-standard craft, design and manufacturing workshops and studios in glass, ceramics, jewellery & fine metals, printmaking, textiles and textile print. The new technology base is extends from traditional craft processes to 3D printing and rapid prototyping, and larger scale kiln technology. Also new studios for painting, drawing and printmaking.

A complete 'ecosystem' of technologies, processes, art forms, materials and practices. It is the 'dream environment' for creative thinkers and makers, hard-wired into creative industry and international markets for contemporary art & design practice. All made in Plymouth!"

The College’s new programme of contemporary crafts courses means that students can now study the specialism at Foundation Degree, BA (Hons) and MA level. These new facilities and courses will help shape the careers of the next generation of talented designer makers.

‘‘We’re not just replacing what we’ve got but we’re investing in new technology."
- Lorraine Evans

Award winning Applied Arts graduate Louise Cloke tells us what the new facilities will mean for the students: “Having access to cutting edge technologies and training opens up so many doors to careers. Contemporary crafts is big business and the knowledge and experience you gain through studying can really set you apart when you start looking for employment in the industry.”

‘‘We’re not just replacing what we’ve got but we’re investing in new technology’ says Loraine Evans, Head of Learning Resource Environment at the College. The building has been certified as BREEAM Excellent, a status that only 4% of new builds in the UK achieve. BREEAM sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation using recognised measures of performance, set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building’s specification, design, construction and use. The project contains a number of elements that have contributed to this status including mechanical ventilation using the latest LEV systems, recycling heat from the glass furnace, solar panelling on the roof and a sealed building for energy efficiency.

The first part of the building project will include 1800 square metres of new workshops and studio space for the Fine Art, Glass and Ceramics departments and will open in September 2013, in time for next year’s graduate intake.

Phase 2, due for completion in March 2014, will add a further 1750 square metres of workshop and studio spaces for wood making, jewellery design and fine art printing. An exciting addition to the College will be a digital design lab including 3D printing facilities that will enable students across the college to envisage 2D drawings in three dimensions and produce rapid prototypes using computer aided design.

“The great thing is that Charles Street, where the new studios will be based, is a busy thoroughfare” adds Loraine. “People will be able to see students making glass and jewellery and may be encouraged to try something themselves.”