As I was walking around these buildings, I could feel a sense of new life constantly being generated, like a new soul within an old body that contained both the solemnity of the the past and the playfulness of the present. The small art gallery next to St Heliers Street cafe and the open studios inside Mercator Building are some of the ‘younger’ parts of Abbotsford Convent, reflecting the site’s transformation over the years to adapt to the contemporary world. By incorporating new aesthetics into its original architecture, it creates a space for artists and creative individuals to experiment with their work and display them publicly.
“Be careful not to break the windows. They are very old” said one of the young baristas in St Heliers cafe when he saw a bunch of kids running around near the gallery windows. The old windows and worn down walls outside the building contrasted with that of clean canvas-like walls in the inside; a contrast between the Victorian era and the modern world perhaps. But these two aspects went surprisingly well together, creating a rather warm, snug feeling.
I felt the same thing when I peeped into the Mercator Building studios where potters were busy at their wheels, creating clay bowls and decorating them. I felt that spaces like these are what ‘animates’ Abbotsford Convent and makes it what it is - A place for never-ending development and experimentation.