Bluecoat Main Facade - Photo by Paul Ashton

Bluecoat Arts Centre

The Grade I listed Bluecoat Chambers is the earliest surviving building in Liverpool city centre. Built in 1717 as a school for poor children, it became an arts centre in 1911, and hosted the first ever UK exhibition outside London of works by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne and Van Gogh.

Paul Ashton worked as co-project architect for Austin-Smith:Lord who took over responsibility for the project from the Dutch architect BIQ.

Restoring the Existing Building

The historic dome, the Queen Anne façade and a rambling series of 18th-century rooms
were all conserved to the highest standards, along with what may be the oldest stone representation of a Liver Bird in the city.

Extending the Existing Building

The new wing replaced a wing that had been poorly rebuilt after the building suffered catastrophic bomb damage during WWII. The venue has gained a 200-seat performance space, shops and eating places, four galleries and 26 studios for artists and workers in the creative industries.


The new wing was based on the module of a single brick. Every brick in the new wing was orientated in a three dimensional stack bonded matrix. The detailed design continued this language and every element of the building from the oxidised copper cladding through to glazing bars to the concrete joints were alighted on this notional this grid. The College Lane facade was the culmination of this construction grammar as it was a sheer wall of stack bonded headers of uncut Hanson Queensblend bricks.


  • RIBA Regional Award Winner
  • English Heritage Exemplar of Creative Conservation
  • Liverpool Society of Architects Building of the Year & Best Cultural Building Awards

  • Project: Bluecoat Arts Centre
  • Location: Liverpool
  • Context: Grade I Listed, Urban
  • Nature: Renovation and rationalisation of Grade I listed building and new build gallery extension
  • Status: Completed
  • Client: Bluecoat
  • Value: £13 m
  • Practice: ASL



Bluecoat Main Gallery Ceiling