The ArtsTwo site, which formerly housed the College's Maintenance Department and a car parts shop, is one of the last developments on the campus that fronts on to the Mile End Road. The building and its perimeter landscaping stitch together the east side of the campus and contribute to the urban character of the area.
The history of the ArtsTwo site dates back to the mid- 1980s, when the College set out a vision for the eastern part of the campus. Part of those expansion plans involved the Westfield student village and new academic buildings. ArtsTwo is really the end of that 25-year programme of development.
Simon Neale, Head of Estates
ArtsTwo is unusual as it overlooks the Novo cemetery, the UK’s second oldest Spanish and Portuguese Jewish burial ground, dating back to 1733. This consecrated ground belongs to the Sephardi Jewish Congregation, the first Jews allowed back into England in 1656 by Oliver Cromwell after their expulsion in 1290 by Edward I.
"The cemetery enables visitors to draw sensory and intellectual stimulation. The obvious antiquity of the surviving section of the cemetery wall also has an appreciable aesthetic value, which is a feature of contrast and distinction when compared with many of the modern buildings around the site." (Historic environmental assessment, Museum of London Archaelogy)
The College has worked closely with the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congregation and the architect Seth Stein to integrate the new building with the perimeter of the burial ground. This landscaping is intended to preserve and enhance the cemetery and its history, with new information plaques for visitors.
As part of the landscaping, the Grade II-listed cemetery wall has been sensitively restored and now acts as a boundary between the contemplation space in front of ArtsTwo and the walkway that runs parallel to the cemetery. The foundations of part of the cemetery wall snake through the floor of ArtsTwo, visible through glass panelling underfoot. “Part of the campus master-planning was to enhance the cemetery as an historical asset and to improve the spaces around it,” explains Stafford Critchlow, Director of Wilkinson Eyre architects.
New planting, cycle stands and paved seating areas have been installed outside the entrance of ArtsTwo to tie in with the College strategy of linked external squares throughout the campus.