History

The Architecture Centre occupies a beautiful 18th century former warehouse in the heart of Bristol’s historic docks.  

This three-storey building was previously a sail loft but stopped making sails in the late 19th or early 20th century. It then remained empty for several decades, becoming increasingly dilapidated and suffering two serious fires.

In the 1990s the Bristol Centre for the Advancement of Architecture obtained funding to restore the building to house the new Architecture Centre. Architects Niall Phillips, who also redeveloped the Youth Hostel next door, transformed the burnt-out sail loft into a welcoming gallery and office space, preserving its sturdy maritime character and charred wooden supports and beams.

The Architecture Centre now occupies the ground floor of the building, with upper floors occupied by tenants Copper Consultancy and Activation Digital.

Visit Bristol Opening Doors to find out more about the building’s history.

History of the Architecture Centre

The Architecture Centre opened its doors to the public on 11 September 1996, the first architecture centre in the UK outside London. The impetus originally came from the architectural community, who founded the charity the Bristol Centre for the Advancement of Architecture when the school of architecture closed down at the University of Bristol. After many years of planning and campaigning, the charity was able to secure 16 Narrow Quay on a long lease from Bristol City Council for use as an event hub and exhibition space.

In 2016 the Centre celebrated two decades of promoting good design and public awareness of architecture and the built environment with a year-long People & Places anniversary programme. See the film of our anniversary party.