A new art school, complete with old school protest

On Wednesday evening the new Central Saint Martins development in London’s King’s Cross was unveiled before an audience of alumni, designers, architects and press. But while CSM students were conspicuous in their absence, their voice has, if anything, been louder in recent months than much of the relocation fanfare

Long Distance Relationship installation at CSM from printinterventions.blog.com

On Wednesday evening the new Central Saint Martins development in London’s King’s Cross was unveiled before an audience of alumni, designers, architects and press. But while CSM students were conspicuous in their absence, their voice has, if anything, been louder in recent months than much of the relocation fanfare…*

This is because of the issue currently dividing the institution prior to its move: that the screenprinting, bookbinding and etching facilities will not be joining the students at their new site in King’s Cross but, instead, will be moved to CSM’s Byam Shaw campus in Archway, three miles away from the new site.

At the pre-launch event, on-site photography and digital animation offered a glimpse of what the University of the Arts and architects Stanton Williams hope will become the first truly 21st century art school. Set to open in September and part of the 67-acre King’s Cross redevelopment, the site is truly impressive. Exposed brick sits alongside new structures (much of the site is based on retained transit sheds and a vast granary store dating from the 1850s) and there will be plenty of light and space in which to work. By virtue of maintaining a visual link with the area’s industrial past, the building already has, as Argent developer Roger Madelin pointed out, a heart and soul.

Alongside a 12m-wide ‘street’ running down the middle of the site, the new development will include a theatre and performance spaces; a dance studio; exhibition spaces and workshops; the potential for temporary pop-up spaces; even viewing areas where students can watch each other working. Essentially it unites the spread of the five disparate CSM campuses into a single site, with 4,000 students expected to arrive in September.

Yet despite the exciting presentation, the talk of enhanced experiences and transformative spaces (not to mention Sir John Tusa’s reassurance that the character and traditions of each department will not be diminished) it seems that five hasn’t quite gone into one. And those counted in the remainder, namely CSM’s graphic design students, are far from happy.

The Off-Sight poster

For several months CR has been aware of blogs, such as printinterventions.blog.com and csmprintprotest.tumblr.com, and tweets from students alerting us to the petition against the relocation of the printing workshops. More recently, on the night of the pre-launch at King’s Place, the student-organised Off-Sight exhibition opened at the Camp space in east London, the culmination of months of student protest against the relocation. The show aims to register their disappointment at the move while celebrating the work that the BA (Hons) graphic design course has produced.

“The new site is incredible and this has never been a fight against the move to King’s Cross,” says Off-Sight’s Alexandra Hook. “But the original plans were for us to have a space in the new building. In moving all the screenprinting, bookbinding and etching faciltiies to Byam Shaw, it’s going against the CSM ethos – which is why we’re angry. It’s meant to be everyone working togther but we’re being isolated – from the course and from our influences.”

Hook, a second year graphic design student, says that the current screenprinting area in Southampton Row is one of the only places on campus “where you get total cross-pollination. It’s a community,” she continues, “and that’s how I got interested in printing in the first place. I walked into the studio having seen something I liked on the walls outside. That element, I think, will be gone.”

From printinterventions.blog.com

CSM say that the equipment going into the print room at the Byam Shaw campus will include some of the very old print machines and letterpress currently located at Southampton Row, in addition to some brand new technology. A statement on the CSM Snapshot blog also assures students that there will be more presses and technicians available because they are all in one place.

“It is important that students have an opportunity to work with equipment they will see in industry as well as hone their skills on the traditional machines,” runs a statement from the CSM press department. “It is understandable that the graphic design students will miss the immediate proximity of the workshops, but like other schools to which the print rooms have not been readily available, they will get used to organising their time to book space.”

From csmprintprotest.tumblr.com

But as the Eye blog reported back in April, an additional student concern is that the facilities will thus be ‘centrally managed’ – what was a graphic design department facility will now be accessible to students on a range of CSM courses. While the potential for collaboration is increased, overall access could in fact be reduced.

Conversely, in a lengthy comment on the Grafik blog, CSM graphic design course director, Alan Baines, offered his concerns about isolating the printmaking facilities: “The synthesis of digital and analogue (e.g. printmaking, photography, moving image) and our ability to offer both within the same physical and intellectual space is what makes BA graphic design so current,” he wrote. “This philosophy is a major component in forming our USP, which in turn supports the CSM brand. It seems, however, as if in the move to King’s Cross it has been assumed that graphic designers only require Apple Macs to be creative.”

So how do the students who currently use the printmaking facilities envisage working day to day come September? “I’m a printmaker at heart,” says Hook, “and I’ll have to spend whole days at Byam Shaw and whole days at King’s Cross. With printing you can’t just leave and come back; you prepare things, there’s a lot of waiting around, drying time.” One comment left on the CSM blog post alluded to the mechanics of the potential journey: “Kings Cross – > Archway /
 Archway – > Kings Cross / 
Kings Cross – > Archway 
/ Archway – > Kings Cross etc…”

In the lead up to the move, many difficult decisions have no doubt been made. Head of college, Jane Rapley, acknowledged that the hardest ones had come down to choices between staff and space. “The most important factor other than staff is access to equipment,” she said at the pre-launch when asked by designer Ken Garland how the amount of physical space for work and study would be affected. In fact, she admitted, there will actually be less square footage at the King’s Cross site. There will be much less “owned” space, too – a philosophy that adheres well to cross-disciplinary intentions, but could usher in a few problems of its own.

As Rapley concluded, there are always “challenges of going into an environment that isn’t formed – but there is space for the unexpected.” While that does sound like a perfect environment for a creative education, it will be clearer in September just how the move works out for CSM’s graphic design intake who already appear to have done all they can to make their voices heard.

*UPDATE: CSM would like us to point out that invites to the King’s Place pre-launch went out to 30 student reps from across the course and college, to eight sabbatical officers and to five students from the Student’s Union.

More details on the King’s Cross move here.

  • As an almuni and Associate Lecturer at CSM it was an upsetting experience to see where the compromises are made in order to ‘facilitate’ the move. Like the students, I am not against the move in general, but am surprised by the choice of priorities and what to invest and what to ‘outsource’. As a place of education, a place to study, not one to accept money in return for handing out degrees, we should consider our students and their paths first. This has not really happened during this process I am afraid. CSM might truly become the first 21st century-artschool, but that does not mean that it is necessarily a better place, does it?

  • Richard de Pesando

    Oh – get over yourself.

    from a Course leader at one of the many UK Art Colleges who has to make do with considerably less and is looking at ways to manage a 25% cut in funding next year.

  • Gavin

    A masterclass of self-entitlement.

    If a 5-stop journey on the Northern Line is enough to destroy your “influences”, then you are not worth influencing. If it’s enough to destroy your culture, then you don’t HAVE a culture.

    Had the facilities been closed down, that might’ve been article-worthy. But seeing as CSM students enjoy some of the best – perhaps THE best – opportunities, locations and industry connections not just in the UK but globally, I think the world will do the appropriate thing in not caring one bit about this pathetic, dribbling whine.

  • Emily Maude

    Gavin you are clearly neither a true printmaker or indeed aware about the cross over between graphic design, illustration and printmaking.

    The print room is a communication design student’s haven, a place to get back to the true roots of the subject a place to understand the different techniques that have been overly simplified (and charm lost) through the technological development of computer aided design. It is a place to smell paper, indulge in inks and design something conceptually conceived but process led.

    Having the facilities in a different location wastes time, immensely. Whilst waiting for drying times, exposure times etc. the student can work on other projects sending them 5 stops down the line means this is not possible and leaves an awful lot of waiting around, unneccessarily.

    Unfortunately the move will severely prohibit the use of the printroom and restrict it to the die hard print fans who are prepared to waste hours of their time traipsing around london in the search of waking up the next morning with aching arms, ink dried under the nails but a true sense of achievement of problem solving to achieve a beautiful edition which no amount of smart wacom tablets or apple macs can achieve.

    Moving the print room, means less usage and ultimately the machines will go. Don’t let this heritage and industry die out, for it is the future generations that will miss out.


    csm degrees will now last 2 weeks
    with a guaranteed 1st


  • Alex

    I think it is understood by all students that there would be cuts, the point is that they have been the wrong cuts. I think what is most irritating is that at no point did they consult the students or staff about what we would like to prioritise, It is about a lack of communication. I think it is evident that this isn’t just a ‘dribbling whine’ by the fact that the staff supported us the entire way. Every student at CSM is in fact there because they are cultural and resourceful, we are discussing a hinderance in our educational experience which directly contrasts with the proposed ethos of the Kings Cross site. We all strongly appreciate the opportunities given to us, as directly stated in the article this isn’t a fight against the move to Kings Cross.

    More than anything else I think it was nice to see students showing a fighting spirit, seeing as our generation has been labelled as not caring.

  • carla

    If you don’t understand the importance of this, perhaps you don’t understand the importance of a studio community. These facilities are the heart of our course and they are integral to our way of working. A community and family has been built around these studios. The physical journey is not the issue here.

  • I would like to thank Mark Sinclair for publishing this article. It puts the issue and our cause publicly in the context that it very much needed and I am happy about the research that has been done including actually talking and interviewing Alex as a voice for us students. I completely agree with Emily: “Gavin you are clearly neither a true printmaker or indeed aware about the cross over between graphic design, illustration and printmaking.”
    Us students are concerned that moving our workshops away will mean that they not only become off site but also off sight and thereby off thought. This is the concept that lies at the heart of our identity for the exhibition and protest, developed by Marie Artaker and myself. Accessibility is not improved by creating a ‘better’ printmaking centre at Archway, as the administration makes us believe but is completely minimised. we question this subject deeply by refernecing hazard tape in the logo.
    Travelling back and forth between both sites effectively means a loss of at least one hour per day on useless commuting. An hour that we just don’t have, as most enthusiastic students on our course already economise on sleeping hours. It is an hour less spent on research and engagement with everything extra to projetct related college work. An hour less for exhibitions, competitions, and personal projects.
    It is deeply frustrating to see that the administration has not shown a more appropriate response to our questions after the amount of exposure and response that this issue has created (scanning the names on our petition site is enough to realise that our demands are not grounded in unreflected objectivity).
    We do not only make a stand for ourselves, (A masterclass of self-entitlement??) but for the graphic design community as a whole and hopefully for all those institutions that do not seem to find better ways to keep their heads over water than by thinking of closing down their precious workshops.

  • Mark King

    Maybe with hindsight, they could of off loaded all their quirky retro gear onto LCP.

  • Cai

    Well maybe if it was at your university and happening to you then you’d understand. It’s all very well you guys having your voice about it but you aren’t actually affected by this?

    Printmaking is one of the most traditional forms of Graphic Design and Illustration and replacing it with computers will hinder studies more than help them.

    Most students at CSM already have their own Macbooks – and obviously don’t have their own printmaking facilities – so surely this makes NO sense. Thinking Design in the modern age is just about Photoshop and InDesign is downright ridiculous and the people that made this decision to have more computers CLEARLY isn’t a real Designer.

  • Ken

    @Richard de Pesando

    Perhaps solidarity might be a better tactic, as CSM faces the same massive and unnecessary cuts you do…


    yeah nice1

  • V

    It is true that CSM seem to be lucky to be blessed with what seems like good print facilites. When I was at uni we had a lot of our print areas shut down. So we should always be fighting for the best facilities.

    My main issue is that surely this is a new building? They should’ve just built a bigger building.

    I’m sorry @Cai, are you saying that printmaking makes you a real designer? Just because it’s printed in a traditional way does not make it good design. Good design flows from good ideas and creativity.

  • eleventhvolume

    Really balanced reporting of a difficult situation. I’m very impressed by this article, thanks.

  • Alex

    As a graduate from a UAL graphic design course, and having had no access to any print facilities at our college, I would have happily spent an extra hour a day traveling to be able to get away from my Macbook.

    Although it’s a shame that the different disciplines might not mix as much in this space anymore, it is worth appreciating that these facilities do exist for CSM students – many art colleges can’t boast the same thing.

  • David

    Join the Army.

  • Ed

    @Cai – If “Most students at CSM already have their own Macbooks” why don’t they take them with them when they go to the new print building. Surely that’d cut down on the hours of wasted time waiting for things?

    I went to a Uni with no print facilities whatsoever so find it hard to sympathise with something which is at worst a poor compromise and at best a fantastic printing facility that is open to everyone at CSM to use.

    I think saying that you’re standing for the graphic design community as a whole may be overstating the case a little, too.

  • Mark Sinclair

    Thanks for all the comments on this issue. I’ve just added a small update as CSM would like us to point out that invites to the King’s Place pre-launch went out to 30 student reps from across the course and college, to eight sabbatical officers and to five students from the Student’s Union.

  • Steffan MacMillan

    CSM have sold their greatest asset – location and they will never be able to replace it, good luck in the regions boys.

  • Fran

    I’m with Alex on this one, I’m afraid. Yes, it’s a pain in the arse to get on a tube and travel, but I’d much rather that than forego access to print facilities altogether. You’ve still got a wealth of equipment free and open to you – so it’s a bit further away. That’s a mere impracticality.

    I went to a brilliant Arts London university to study graphics, and while I loved every moment and did well out of it, there were no traditional print facilities available to us and we really felt like we missed out. So please, don’t forget how bloody lucky you are to have those facilities in the first place.

  • Bonnie

    I think this could come down to the fact that CSM loudly, and unjustly, proclaim their strength of creative community, the cross overs between disciplines, and reputation as a future-thinking university. Well, at least this is what they said to me in my interview, and in fact, I found the university under-resourced, other courses highly irritable when having to share facilities and the tutors distracted and disconnected. (not all, there were some truely wonderful tutors too). So if the graphic design course had that special something, a true, mutually beneficial creative community going, it’s something special, and I’d be vexed at it’s destruction, too. But CSM Heads seem to value it’s rep and the appearance of excellence over true nurturing. Students – fight while everyone’s listening.

  • Kirsty

    CSM can at least luxuriate in space and light. I understand that quite a few regional art colleges, subsumed by the new universities have either demolished or moved to new buildings where the notion of hot-desking has replaced the old school studio/print workshop model. Witness, Liverpool John Moores, Sheffield Hallam and Birmingham City University, (The latter’s planned move to an ill-concieved creative faculty in a dead part of town). Consultation and communication with staff and above all students should be high on the agenda.

  • alex

    As a print maker within graphic design I understand that the rooms themselves represent the idea of a personal work space, much like the intimacy of your own desk. For someone to move your desk into another building would be truly be awful and disruptive to all activity. CSM has a stigma because it is, or perceived to be one of best creative colleges in the world, but this is precisely why this privilege is so important, natural talent and hard work is at the core of every students right to practice and to introduce this kind of discourse in design and production provides and unwelcome hindrance to constructive creativity.

    I am in my third year at UAL and I live in my print rooms, I would fight to the end should this happen to me and I am more than happy to give a master class in entitlement.

  • Alex

    As an ex UAL (LCC) student i can sympathise with the plight of these students. The print room was an essential part of most designers, illustrators, book binders etc education at LCC. Those that threw themselves into all the activities in the print room benefitted hugely from it. I can’t imagine how irritating it must be to have to travel to a separate campus to use the facilities. Those who print know that, cleaning a screen, waiting for it to dry, exposing it, blasting it down, waiting for it to dry, are all part and parcel of the process. But luckily having the facilities in close proximity to others, meant that at our college we were able to go to letterpress, use the library, the computersuite, or catch a tutor for a quick bit of advice on our other projects instead of waiting around for these tedious amounts of time. Having to travel across london seems like a ridiculous move by CSM, what on earth was the point in creating a 67 acre sight without printmaking facilities?. That is a statement about the importance of printmaking and its place in the future of design education. While printmaking may not have a huge role within the majority of design studios today, it does provide an important knowledge of the possibilities within print when specifying a job. Even basic things such as understanding CMYK process printing seem obvious but are actually not always known by Design graduates today. Having an indepth knowledge of print process is something that may very well set you apart from other graduates and get you that all important first job.

    A hugely disappointing move by CSM, who should more than anyone, know the importance of protecting the art of process.

  • Mark Sinclair

    @Alex, thanks for the comment. Just to point out though, the 67 acres refers to the whole of the King’s Cross redevelopment, not just the new CSM site. There are 20 new streets being created, for example, plus a new square

  • Really, there are many instiutions around the country (especially mine where I am a final year student) who have had massive cutbacks already. The Graphic Design department has shed two staff members including a print technician.
    In terms of print facilities all we have in-house is a couple of A2 inkjet printers. All the proper printmaking facilities were chucked out in favour of a fancy-new Apple iMac suite. Times are changing whether we like it or not. For years students have had to go down the road to an independent art and print studio space – at least we’re lucky to have that. Paying for it on top of tuition and ‘studio’ fees make these types of situations hard to swallow however.

  • Student

    As a student at UAL (LCC) I know that ‘higher ups’ are keen to slowly get rid of traditional printing facilities. We have amazing print facilities at the LCC ( Obviously, previously LCP), some, beautiful, amazing old commercial printers, No way does the graphic design course take advantage of all the amazing wealth it has around it. Letterpress is also at risk, screenprinting less so . There is definitely a desire from suites to phase out the older machines and letterpress, we have to sign a register whenever we use these facilities for the tutors to try and prove that they are still in demand. Its closure through the back door. I think the fear is moving facilities away and getting a smaller usage, especially from newer student’s thus giving an excuse to get rid of the traditional facilities in the future.

    .. I also sympathies with the hot-desking happening around the country as a former student of Ravensbourne.

  • noel douglas

    This is not really about CSM but about the steady destruction of the art school tradition in this country, and it’s replacement with a corporate privatised education system.
    Just as the site has done very little for local people who are still battling for some social housing and not more shopping malls to be built there.
    Hot dealing is bullshit, and the management of the UAL seem to have little to no understanding of what made those individual schools so special.
    We are losing a whole Eco-system for creativity that will be hard to recover, I only wish the students would stop being so polite and get bolshy it’s your education not theirs, less nice posters saying you’re pissed off and more direct action might mean you get what you want, nows the time-act!

  • Danny

    At CSM you don’t have a studio desk space. Yet alone hot-desking. I don’t think many are aware of this.

  • Picking the right college course is always hard, we want to graduate with a degree that will help you land your dream job. in my case, as a design student, this gives me not just a fulfillmen­t of what i really want but also opportunit­ies to further my career. just a thought!

  • Stuart

    Staggered to hear that in the new building the Ceramics workshops have NO NATURAL LIGHT! Have I got this wrong?

  • Liam

    I attended the open day for the BA Fine Art course with my son. The place looks like a Pharmaceutical Company H.Q. The Board Room prominently displayed didn’t help. We were told that we couldn’t go through the underground style barriers while we waited.
    The place looked like a bleak ‘modernistic’ film set for a 1930’s Fascist version of Hamlet. Unfortunately it wasn’t ironic. When we finally got through the barriers. We noticed that the place mostly consists of wasted space corridors and we walked past ‘seminar rooms’ filled with tables and chairs but no people. We walked past these again and again and again.
    When we got to the studios they were crowded. Someone got their priorities for space so wrong. I spoke to a student who must have been a 2nd or 3rd year. they said that you have to be careful you are always working on your piece or your space is taken.
    This building and the organisation it expresses has swallowed the corporate lie hook line and sinker. The number of times we were told that CSM ‘can be very choosy’ ‘We have high fences you have to jump’ and that ‘we are wicked horrible people’ in selection, amazed me with the lack of perspective it betrayed. An organisation so grandiose that it believes it’s own propaganda is well on it’s way out.
    I can’t see how any student looking to spend £9,000 on fees and at least £7,500 on living a year would volunteer to be a guinea-pig in the years it will take to make that White Elephant into a functioning college. Besides the obvious fascination and links with corporate business and the trappings and conceit there of, the lack of perspective on the present financial and cultural situation point the way for this Dinosaur.