Former London munitions depot to become modern art gallery

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The Independent Culture

A former munitions depot is to be transformed into London's newest contemporary art space by the Serpentine Gallery, it was announced today.

The Grade II listed building in Kensington Gardens will host modern exhibitions by world-renowned artists and is expected to be open in time for the London 2012 Olympics.

Leading architect Zaha Hadid, whose design for a concrete art gallery in Rome won the RIBA Stirling Prize for best new European building, will renovate the structure.

The new Serpentine Sackler Gallery will be housed in the Magazine building owned by the Royal Parks and leased to the art organisation for 20 years.

Mark Camley, the Royal Parks' chief executive, said: "We are delighted to bring this unique listed building into public use for the first time, providing an exciting new cultural destination for park visitors."

He added: "Income generated from the licence will be invested back into the Royal Parks for everyone to enjoy."

In a bid to make better use of its buildings the Royal Parks invited proposals for new uses for the structure in August last year and the Serpentine was announced today as the winner of three shortlisted entries.

The Magazine building dates from 1765 but later additions were made in the early 19th century increasing its size to 8,000 sq ft.

It held munitions for the Army in the event of a foreign invasion or a popular uprising but has not been used for military storage for the last 50 years.

Today part of its space is used as offices for Kensington Gardens' park management team who will move to other premises.

Julia Peyton-Jones, director and Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine Gallery said today's decision represented an "opportunity of a lifetime" for their organisation.

They added: "We have been interested in the potential of the building for some time and how it could help us expand the range of what we do. In these challenging times, we feared the opportunity would be lost.

"We are very grateful to our long-term friends for their very generous assistance, which has made it possible for us to create this exciting, new platform for the UK and beyond."