National Glass Centre Archive Exhibition
|Author: Roger Heywood||Published: 2nd March 2009 11:39|
Archive Exhibition Celebrates 10 years for the National Glass Centre !
NGC Archive Exhibition
28 February - 19 April 2009
Open Day Saturday 7 March, 12-2pm
National Glass Centre presents an exhibition of archive material that looks back to the construction and opening of the NGC building, and beyond to the site's history as the former J.L. Thompson shipyard. The exhibition is part of a celebratory programme of exhibitions and events taking place during National Glass Centre's tenth year, from October 2008 to October 2009, dedicated to the story of the National Glass Centre, its design and construction and the rich history of the site on which it was built.
National Glass Centre was the first major building to open in the UK funded by a Capital Arts Lottery award. It was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles on 23rd October 1998. A competition, initiated by the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation, and funded by the ERDF and the Arts Council / National Lottery, set out to design a building that would celebrate the heritage of glassmaking in Sunderland.
Gollifer Langston Architects won the commission over eighty architectural practices who entered the competition. Their proposal aimed to make the activities and production going on inside the building, visible to visitors and combine the different elements of the centre under one roof, which in itself was intended to be a public space incorporating glass.
The exhibition includes some of the original architectural plans, drawings and models from Gollifer Langston Architects. Alongside these are photographs taken by local residents, such as Mary Robinson, member of Monkwearmouth's History Group, and Godfrey Irving, who also contributes etchings and prints inspired by the river and the cityscape. These personal archives sit beside photography commissioned by NGC - both at the launch of the new building, by Stephen Collins, and more recently, in 2006, digital representations of a futuristic view of the NGC architecture by Joe Clark.
The exhibition features photographs and family memorabilia from the Thompson family, courtesy of Mrs. Sarah Thompson, providing a fascinating insight into the history of the Thompson shipyard, along with photography from the Sunderland Echo archives.
In 1976 Patrick Thompson stood down as Director of Sunderland Shipbuilder's Ltd, ending his family's 157-year link to shipbuilding on the River Wear. He was the sixth generation of Thompson's' to have been involved in Sunderland's shipbuilding heritage since his great, great, great grandfather Robert Thompson started building ships on the Wear in 1819. From the setting up of the firm of Joseph L Thompson & Sons in 1846 to the closure of the North Sands Yard in 1979, over 740 ships took to the water from this site on the Wear.
During the Second World War Sunderland played a crucial role in building new ships and repairing damaged ones, and continued to lead the way in shipbuilding after the war until, with improvements in production, the worldwide market increased, and it became more difficult for British yards to compete. Throughout the 1950s and 60s more yards closed or merged. As a result the government nationalised the shipbuilding industry, resulting in substantial job losses. The last two remaining shipyard groups merged in 1980 but, then, in 1988 after more than 550 years of history, shipbuilding on the River Wear ended with the closure of the last yard.
Reflecting this are photographs by a recent University of Sunderland photography graduate, Andy Martin, which offer a poignant study of the dereliction and decay of former industrial sites of Sunderland, prior to their regeneration.
This brings us full circle to NGC, one of the first buildings in Sunderland to mark the beginning of the city's regeneration, breathing new life into the area. Today, the National Glass Centre promotes the art, history and science of glass in a way that is inspired by the heritage of its location, through a programme of exhibitions, commissions and education that is international in its scope and vision, and fosters meaningful debate and participation between artists, audiences and educators.
The NGC receives at least 150,000 visitors a year to the venue and on average over 17,000 people visit its website each month. There is a brand new education programme and an exhibition programme that rivals any contemporary art gallery. The centre has plans to revitalize its permanent, interactive exhibition space over the next few years, bringing it fully into the 21st century.
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