A university that needs little or no introduction, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design has an indisputable reputation for fostering creativity and future talent. And it's not just highly regarded within creative circles. When someone says they went to Saint Martins or CSM (what it's commonly abbreviated as), onlookers and new acquaintances will often respond with an 'oooooohhh' or 'oh, WOW' followed by a 'so what was it like??'
That someone is me, and my puzzled reaction to this public curiosity is always the same, 'It was one of the best times of my life and that what I learn there could not have been learnt at any other college.' At this point, I'm bombarded with the 'CSM 20 questions', realising just how proud I am of my 4 year stint at CSM.
Four years after my graduation back in 2007, Central Saint Martins opened it's doors at the new shiny location of Kings Cross, behind St Pancras station. The campus holds courses from the Charing Cross, Southampton Row sites and BA courses from Back Hill, which remains as the site for the Foundation Course.
I have to be honest, at first I was skeptical of the architecture and layout of the brand spanking new Saint Martins. It was the opposite of the Saint Martins I knew and experienced, and like most, I was scared it would tarnish my memories of the grand spiral staircase, the wooden doors and the old school quirks of Southampton Row. On top of this, in the lead up to 'the big move', I was informed (via my cousin,Jasmine Lau who is in her final year of her BA Graphic Design)of the drama and ongoing onslaught of the college's decision to relocate it's print facilities to the Byam Shaw's Archway campus. Long story short, we were all worried CSM would eventually lose its valuable workshops, experts and facilities, in favour of technology, and that the building would morph into the next Westfield Shopping Centre, erasing it's rich heritage that made the institution what it is today.
Well after a year-long build-up to 'the move' and 2 hour tour by the lovely press officer, Jo Ortmans, I can safely say, I love the new Central Saint Martins.
Designed by architects Stanton Williams, with the help of the college's tutors, they rebuilt in and around a Victorian granary and two former transit sheds in London. Following a competition-winning scheme, Stanton Williams were asked to masterplan and design a new 32,000m2 campus for 5000 students.
Combining a 19th century Grade II listed Granary building and transit sheds, with a 200 metre long new building creates robust spaces full of natural light. An internal 'street' draws daylight in and acts as a central circulation spine with suspended walkways, cafes, film, graphic and light projections. Part of this area is public so you can have a peek into the magnificent structure, but soon, there will be new commercial developments full of independent boutiques and cafes all around the college, pedestrianising this area and integrating it into the Kings Cross community.
Here are trivia facts and figures about the new build: -More than 2.4 million man hours -10 acres of gross floor area -Enough concrete to fill 8 Olympic swimming pools -More than 150 listed building consent and reserved matter conditions -Over 1.3 million timber blockers laid to The Street floor in 882 days