Essex CO1 1JH
The first Roman town in Britain, Colchester, is full of surprises. Who would expect to find a modern innovative art gallery in such an historic place? Firstsite is a contemporary visual arts space in a stunning building.
Firstsite originally shared premises with The Minories Galleries but soon outgrew its location. In 2003 it was decided that a new centre for the visual arts should be the lynchpin of a master plan to develop a creative quarter to the east of Colchester's historic centre. An ambitious building programme was commenced to provide, amongst other things, a permanent home for Firstsite to be opened in 2011.
The Berryfield Mosaic
At the heart of the Firstsite building is the Berryfield Mosaic, a Roman artefact unearthed in 1923 on the site on which the building now stands. Originally the mosaic formed the dining room floor in a Roman townhouse. It had floral designs in the centre and at its four corners. In the four rectangular panels, sea monsters chase dolphins.
Unfortunately, this almost perfect floor was disfigured when a rubbish pit was dug through one of the corner panels in the Middle Ages. However, it is still a very fine exhibit.
exhibitions are on a rolling six-monthly basis and present a wealth of contemporary visual art practice. The annual programme combines solo and group exhibitions from artists working locally, nationally and internationally, and includes existing and commissioned works. The Gallery
always tries to contextualise exhibits by presenting new pieces alongside historical works. From time to time exhibitions contain works borrowed from collections and presented in partnership with other organisations.
Firstsite also cooperates with Essex University to show South American art. The University Space is in the heart of the building, and displays University-related exhibitions and research.
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Tripadvisor here:
Monday – Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00 hours
Reduced prices are available for Members and Concession Card holders. Carers for disabled visitors are admitted free.
There is level access throughout and a wheelchair available on a first come, first served basis. Exhibition guides are available in large print format. Assistance dogs are welcome. Hearing loops are accessible in the Auditorium, Meeting rooms and Learning spaces. Disabled parking bays only are available - allocated on a first come, first served basis. For further details please telephone or email Firstsite.
Gift Shop, restaurant and cloakroom behind the reception desk which can accommodate luggage. A £1 donation is suggested. Discover a covetable range of design-led gifts at Firstsite's shop, located at the front of the building.
Photography is not permitted inside the building. Firstsite asks visitors to refrain from touching the artworks. If you have any queries during your visit, do not hesitate to ask a Firstsite gallery assistant (wearing black t-shirts), who will be happy to help.
Exhibition Guided Tours
Designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, the crescent-shaped building was created to wrap around the existing D-shaped garden of East Hill House, leaving intact the established arc of mature trees.
Its low-lying, single-storey design nestles in the landscape, with minimum disruption to Colchester
’s historic roofscape.
Firstsite is built on a steel frame, and clad entirely in TECU Gold – a malleable copper-aluminium alloy that had to be applied by hand by a team of plumbers!
The building lies on Scheduled Ancient Monument land, with archaeological artefacts buried beneath. This meant a ‘no-dig’ policy and conventional foundations could not be dug. Instead, the vast 3,200 square metre building is supported by a giant concrete ‘raft’, which floats above the ground.
The front portico rises to 11 metres high, and frames the lobby with imposing full-height glazing. An interior promenade carries visitors from the vast entrance hall which comprises an exhibition space and the gift shop, through the outer curve of the building, to the gallery spaces at the rear.
Accommodation - Search & Book through Booking.com here:
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1206 577 067
There is good access to Colchester
from all parts of the country via the A12, A120, M25 and A14.
- By Road
There is no on-site parking but the gallery is only a short walk from all Colchester
’s town centre car parks. Outside the building is a drop-off point for cars and coaches.
- By Bus
The High Street
and East Hill are well served by many local bus routes. For bus times go to Web: Network Colchester
or Tel: (01206) 877620.
- By Train
The gallery is a few minutes' walk from Colchester Town Station or 25 minutes’ walk from Colchester North mainline station. Journey time from London
to Colchester is around 50 minutes on InterCity services, and around an hour on local services.
Google Maps - First Site