With the much anticipated arrival of summer comes a bittersweet moment as well: The iconic Charing Cross building of Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design (or CSM) is set to shut its historic (and heavy, might I add!) doors at the close of the season, through which have passed some of the most prolific talents in fashion, fine art, film and music: Alexander McQueen, Peter Doig, Sarah Burton, Hussein Chalayan, Hamish Bowles, Anthony Gormley, and M.I.A to name a few.
The beloved, well-worn building is, as CSM puts it, is “not easily adapted to keep up with fast changing technology and industry.” It may not be shiny or new–call it stubborn–but some of us like it just the way it is. It has history and charm, which I was fortunate enough to experience while studying Fine Art there for three years. Yes, I may have found myself painting in a puffy down jacket in the dead of winter due to the unreliable heating system in the 3rd floor studios, but that just helped justify lots of tea breaks and Lady Sovereign impersonations.
The building, located in the heart of Soho, London, has held the 107-109 Charing Cross Road address for the past 72 years. It is inspiring from inside and out, with window galleries that display student and alumni artwork 24/7 for tourists and general passers-by to gaze at. The studios boast expansive windows, where students can look out at the impressive views of the city streets below and where they may or may not have dropped things out of for fun (like tiny crumpled bits of paper with quotes written on them.) The elevator might not fit quite as many people as it could, but carrying stacks of books, canvases and paints up and through the same staircase and corridors as some of my icons never felt like a chore (especially with the help of my favorite burly, tattoo-covered front desk security guard). The lack of modernity gave the space a creative buzz and feeling of raw, tangible history. After all, it was CSM alum and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker who sang about the sculptor from St. Martins College who wanted to “live like common people.”
But as one Central Saint Martin’s door closes, another door opens: The school will move to the historic Lewis Cubitt Granary building at King’s Cross as part of the busy hub’s redevelopment plan.
If you can’t hop over the pond in the coming weeks before the building closes to peak at window galleries or sneak into the student-only building, check out the Saint Martin’s tribute video via YouTube here.
Just try not to shed a tear like us.