Arts & Culture \ Dundee Contemporary Arts

Dundee Contemporary Arts forms a major part of the re-establishment of the cultural identity of the City of Dundee. It has succeeded in making a public arts venue which is inclusive and enticing and encourages interaction between the public and many forms of visual arts. To quote the Sunday Times "It is one of the most satisfying, sublime and stylish public buildings opened in years". This was one of the most complex projects that the practice has completed.

The practice won the project competition in July 1996. From the outset the aim of our scheme was to group all activities; galleries, cinemas, printworkshops, shop and research facilities, around a central social space and cafe. The building partially reuses the brick warehouse of the former Macleans garage and forms an 'L' shaped plan on a site which falls 3 storeys from front to back. The cafe and foyer sit at the internal corner of this 'L' and are therefore at the heart of the building in plan and section.

The site has a very narrow street frontage between the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Georgian house of the Clydesdale Bank. In order to draw visitors into the building we aligned the foyer on the Tay Street opposite so that it might form an extension of that public realm into the building; we set the entrance back below a dramatic canopy and beside the shop (the commercial face of the arts activities within) to give a breathing space to the street edge and a presence to the approach, and finally we made use of continuous rooflights to cast sunlight and shadow across the internal walls of the foyer drawing the eye to the furthest part of the plan.

This theme of the use of light is continued by the use of windows to give glimpses of the Tay estuary to the south and also between foyer and cafe and galleries and cinemas. The aim is to entice the visitor to see an exhibition or a film when they might have come only for a coffee, to draw them in without their feeling the need to specifically come for a show, and to help everyone understand where they are in the building and where everything else is. Even the main cinema has a large window below the screen allowing the audience to be connected to Dundee before and after the film and allow the external world a glimpse of the interior at the same time. This is part of the idea of the building as part of the city as a whole. Everything is visible from either the internal street or the cafe/bar. The street is supported by the necessary ancillary facilities and behind the scenes by a double height office space.

Adjacent to the cafe and visible from it is the world of the printmakers, placed there as an enticement to participate whilst beneath is the two storey "engine room" of the university facilities grouped around a double height experimental gallery.

Finally the language of the building grows out of the idea of inserting the new facilities within the eroded shell of the former brick warehouse. New building slips past the old in a series of planar elements of copper glass and steel. These planes then become a language of the new wing beneath a single unifying roof profile and are repeated in sliding doors and walls internally.

Since its opening the building has been a phenomenal success attracting more than three times the number of visitors expected.

Architects Richard Murphy, Bill Black, James Mason, Edward Hollis, Oliver Chapman, Will Tunnel, Alan Grey, Brent Railton, Ian Strakis
Engineers ARUP Scotland
M&E Engineers ARUP Scotland
Quantity Surveyor Thomson Bethune
Acoustic Engineers Sandy Brown Associates
Colour Consultant Linda Green, Studio Green
Contractor Torith Construction Ltd
Construction Cost £6.1m
Client Dundee City Council


1999 Regeneration of Scotland Supreme Award
2000 Civic Trust Award
2000 RIBA Award
2001 D.I.A. - Commendation
2007 Dundee Institute of Architects - Building of the Decade Award


30 April 2024 Five 'incredible' British museums nominated for arts prize BBC News Online
September 2016 20 Years of Award Winning Architecture in Dundee Dundee Institute of Architects - DIA20Y Book
February 2011 An Artistic Discovery Property Executive
February 2011 Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre The Arup Journal, Millenium Issue 1
2000 Kunstara Deutsche Bauzeitschrift
January 2000 Murphy Reigns Supreme Project Scotland
19 December 1999 Review Of The Year Sunday Herald
December 1999 When Material Meets Transparence Acciaio Arts Architettura
December 1999 Richard Murphy Takes Regeneration Supreme Award Chartered Architect
October 1999 Best Architects Go Head To Head Project Scotland
August 1999 Dundee Architectural Review
July 1999 Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre (specifiers Choice) AJ Focus
Summer 1999 Dundee Contemporary Arts Ahss Magazine
June 1999 The Art House The Scotsman
May 1999 Discovering Art Arca Issue No. 1
22 April 1999 Murphy's Magic Architects' Journal
April/May 1999 Inspriration: Dundee's New Arts Centre Artwork
26 March 1999 Vertical Hold Building Design
21 March 1999 Beautiful Vision Scotland On Sunday
7 March 1999 Dundee's Rpime Example Of Good Architecture The Sunday Times
March 1999 Prime Example Of Ingenuity Glasgow Herald
28 February 1999 Striking A Post Industrial Pose Sunday Herald
Winter 1999 Generations (regeneration Of Scotland Award) Prospect
1999 Contemporary Arts Centre In Dundee Archis
Summer 1999 Centre For An Art Lover Prospect
December 1998 Glasgow Was Miles Better But Here Comes Dundee The Scotsman
Ocotber 1998 Urban Space And Fresh Ideas The Herald
1997 New Work/future Visions British Architecture
15 July 1996 £8m Arts Centre Design Decided Evening Telegraph
July 1996 Hi-tech Village For Dundee Scotland On Sunday
Spring 1996 Richard Murphy Arq
August/September 1996 Chance Of Re-discovery Of Dundee Artwork
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