UAL: Camberwell College of Arts

The College – formerly Technical Institute (school) – opened next to the South London Art Gallery (now known as SLG) in 1889. The school and the gallery were the fruition of an artistic movement in Camberwell supported by a number of wealthy philanthropists; the school aimed to give the ‘best artistic and technical education to all classes in the district’. Originally the school offered classes in specific trades such as architecture, cabinet design, embroidery, wood carving, wood block and stencil cutting. By 1920 a Fine Art Department had been created.

In 1973 the school expanded into a modern purpose-built block next to the existing Victorian premises – both buildings are now listed. Earlier this year two new blocks were added to the campus; one block – ‘Gardens House’ providing student accommodation and a 24-hour study space the other, behind the 1970’s block providing larger studios, a new 250 seat lecture theatre, library, public gallery and student-led exhibition space.

Camberwell is now part of the University of the Arts London and along with its sister colleges Chelsea College of Art and Design and Wimbledon College of Art make up CCW, a three college model that allows students to benefit from the extensive teaching and learning facilities across all three sites.

Camberwell is regarded as one of the UK’s foremost art and design institutions; notable alumni include Quentin Blake, Jeff Banks, Des’ree, Tim Roth, Maggi Hambling and Mike Leigh.

A maze of corridors, and 5 different buildings

As part of their on-going work for UAL, creative agency Johnson Banks brought in Whybrow to help develop a wayfinding scheme for Camberwell College of Arts, which is part of UAL (University of the Arts London). The Camberwell campus is complex, comprising of two Victorian buildings, a 1970’s block and two brand new state-of-the-art buildings.

Challenges included a maze of corridors within the Victorian buildings along with a bridge link which joins the ground floor of the Victorian buildings to the first floor of the 1970’s block! Inconsistent nomenclature and level numbering within lifts also abounded. The new wayfinding scheme was to be temporary pending possible developments to the UAL brand architecture.

Whybrow usually aim to develop simple, intuitive schemes which rely on good visual permeability and strong visual references, however these factors did not exist at Camberwell… and so the scheme had to be overt! The buildings were named Block A (1970’s building), Block B (brand new building behind Block A), Blocks C and D (the two interconnected Victorian buildings), Gardens House (not connected directly to the other 4 buildings and therefore not labelled a block), and floor graphics have been employed to explain the relationship between these blocks. Cross-section directory diagrams encompassing the whole campus explain the horizontal relationship and links between the blocks. These primary wayfinding elements are supported by numerous secondary directional graphics – both wall and floor mounted – along with tertiary labelling.

The ‘signs’ were produced using peripheral cut printed vinyl with matt seal over-laminate; whilst a cost effective solution (bearing in mind the scheme is potentially temporary) it is also quite beautiful when it features the textures of the tiling and brickwork to which it has been mounted.