Acme, supporting artists since 1972

Studio Development Partnerships

Acme Studios was formed in 1972 as a charitable housing association to provide affordable space for artists who cannot afford to rent on the open market. The organisation has remained at the forefront of artists' housing and studio provision, pioneering new models of development which secure long-term, affordable and high-quality studios, and mutual benefits for the partners involved. Over the last ten years we have worked with commercial developers, housing associations and local government to create permanent studios in and around London.

We have developed a number of new-build artists’ studios working closely with planning authorities to meet local objectives. Our studios are occupied by self-employed artists, many living or working in the immediate area. Artists meet section 106 requirements to provide employment use and community benefit and, at the same time, offer a ready-made creative community as part of a new development.
Acme has developed seven new-build partnership projects since 2006 resulting in 220 high-quality and permanent studios. In each case the driving factor has been to create space which will remain affordable to artists in the long-term. Of these, four projects were supported by a £2 million grant from Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts – capital programme.

For more information on Acme’s Capital Development Programme, see ‘Acme Bulletin October 2012’ in Further Reading.

The seven partnership schemes include:


The Galleria, SE15

Housing developer Barratt Homes was planning to build on the site of a former print factory in Peckham. Barratt approached Acme to see if it would be interested in taking studio space in the new development as the local authority was determined to maintain employment use on the site.

The resulting mixed-use development of affordable apartments to rent, apartments for sale and 50 artists’ studios, opened as the Galleria, SE15 in 2006. The scheme met the Council’s planning requirements, guaranteed Barratt the sale of the commercial space and achieved 100 per cent occupancy from day one.

Acme drew on funding from Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts – capital programme towards the purchase of a 155-year lease on the studio block at a fixed price sufficiently below the construction cost, enabling it to maintain affordable rent levels on the studios.

This ground-breaking development received an award in the Best Development category at the 2006 What House? Awards. For more information on this development, see the 'Commercial Developers Case Study' in Further Reading.

Further projects with commercial developers are at Matchmakers Wharf, E9 with Telford Homes Plc (opened May 2012) and The Glassyard, SW9 with Spiritbond (opened October 2013).


Leven Road, E14

Our partnership project with Swan Housing Group, at the Atelier, Leven Road, E14 was the UK’s first 100 per cent affordable mixed-use project. The residential element of the project, managed by Swan, consists of 66 apartments for rent and shared ownership. The ‘commercial’ element, managed by Acme, includes 21 purpose-built artists’ studios.

Swan purchased a site in Poplar with little prospect of take-up of the employment space but with the local authority requiring job provision as part of the development. Following a similar model to the Galleria, Swan built studios to Acme’s specifications on the ground-floor of the building which Acme purchased at a below-cost level. Studio space for local artists met the demand for employment use and in addition provides quiet activity compatible with the residential elements of the development.

Further projects with social housing providers are at Harrow Road, NW10 with Catalyst Housing Group (opened March 2012) and at Warton House, E15 with Genesis Housing Group (due to open April 2014).

For more information on the Leven Road development, see the ‘Social Housing Case Study' in Further Reading.


High House Artists’ Studios, Thurrock

Acme understands the importance of fostering relationships over time. The 39 studios and four work/live units at High House Artists’ Studios, which opened in July 2013, are the culmination of seven years planning.

High House Production Park in Thurrock was established by Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation (TTGDC) on the site of an abandoned farm overlooking the Dartford Bridge. The first phase of development of the fourteen acre site, its heritage buildings and public park, was completed in 2010 with the opening of the Royal Opera House's Bob and Tamar Manoukian Set Production workshop. This was followed in 2013, by the launch of the Creative & Cultural Skills' Backstage Centre, a world-class production, rehearsal and training venue for performance, broadcast and live events.

Aware of the lack of artist workspace in the area, the creation of affordable studios had been central to the vision for the Park from the outset. Acme was commissioned to undertake a detailed demand and feasibility study and was then appointed to manage the studios via a 25-year risk-sharing lease. Acme worked closely with TTGDC and HAT Projects architects to create a flexible, high-quality, stand-alone building with a wide-range of studio sizes. The design brief for the building was the result of a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Acme and Central Saint Martins. The building sets a benchmark in terms of affordable studio space design and achieved a remarkably low construction cost of £78 per sq ft.

The studios were funded by High House Production Park Ltd, the charity set up to run the Park following the winding-up of the development corporation, and Arts Council England East. This is the first time a regional development agency, working closely with an arts funding agency and studio organisation, has initiated and delivered an affordable artists’ studio building.

Exterior of the Galleria, SE15. Photo: Acme Studios (2006)

Exterior of the Galleria, SE15. Photo: Acme Studios (2006)

Exterior of Leven Road, E14. Photo: Swan Housing (2009)

Exterior of Leven Road, E14. Photo: Swan Housing (2009)

High House Artists' Studios, Thurrock. Photo: Hugo Glendinning (2013)

High House Artists' Studios, Thurrock. Photo: Hugo Glendinning (2013)

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Further Reading

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National Housing Federation member | NFASP member | Supported using public funding by Arts Council England