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ARU 2012, scheme for Central House
Bob & Roberta Smith, Art Makes People Powerful, proposal

The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design

The history of the Cass can be traced back to the nineteenth century reform movements and campaigns for civic and social progress. Important objectives included education for the working classes, the improvement of the design industries and encouragement for the arts. Aldgate was a centre for reform because it was home to a large, diverse and impoverished working population and an area of social deprivation. It was also full of craft and manufacturing industries. Today the reform heritage continues to play an important role in the growth of East London and its place as a contemporary centre for education, the arts and creative industries. Key institutions include the Whitechapel Gallery, charged with bringing great art to the East End of London; Toynbee Hall, which continues its mission as a catalyst of social reform, and the Cass which has provided generations of students with a vocational and academic education in the arts including furniture making, design, textiles, silversmithing and jewellery, music technology and musical instrument making, photography and film, fine art and most recently architecture.

 The contribution of the Cass ‘young creatives’ – as they are referred to in the Publica Aldgate Partnership Development Review – to the social, cultural and economic well-being of Aldgate, is widely recognised. They are integral to the community surrounding Aldgate and actively pursue opportunities for collaborative partnerships, social engagement, and creative and cultural activities that enhance the area, as well as offering an array of educational programmes that attract students to the area and serve the local population.

History of the Cass

1748 Sir John Cass Foundation is established in 1748 following the bequest of Sir John Cass who had set up an independent school for boys and girls in the church of St Botolph-without-Aldgate.

1851 (Year of Great Exhibition) Prince Albert visits a fledgling college in Bishopsgate, set up by the Bishop of London to improve the moral, intellectual and spiritual condition of young men in London. This is the origin of the City of London College. It pioneers the introduction of commercial and technical subjects.

1886 Architecture is taught in the Northern Polytechnic, founded in 1986, as part of an education in the building trades, and recognised by the RIBA from 1925 onwards.

1895 The Charity Commissioners reform and reconstitute the Cass Charity and the Foundation. Its endowment is redirected at the London Polytechnic cause to serve the population of East London. A new building is commenced in Jewry Street in 1898 to house the main Cass School and the new Sir John Cass Technical (Polytechnic) Institute, founded in 1902 to serve the people of Aldgate and East London with a technical and vocational education.

1904 The Aldgate Technical Institute establishes a School of Art. It is renamed the Sir John Cass College of Arts and Science in 1950.

1965 The Sir John Cass College acquires silversmithing and jewellery from the Central School of Arts and Craft. In the same year the College moves the growing School of Art and newly acquired crafts into Central House in Aldgate, a modernist building opposite the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

1970 The Sir John Cass College merges with the City of London College, and the King Edward VII Nautical College, to form the City of London Polytechnic.

1970 The London College of Furniture moves from Shoreditch into a similarly modernist building nearby to Central House, known as Commercial Road. The LCF supports apprenticeships, vocational and academic courses in furniture design and production, music technology and musical instrument making, interior design and textiles. It provides for a large number of part-time and evening courses.

1990 The London College of Furniture merges with the City of London Polytechnic. Today Commercial Road contains numerous specialist workshops including woodworking, metalwork, upholstery and furnishing, plastics, ceramics, silversmithing, restoration and conservation, rapid prototyping, 3D printing, recording studios, editing suites, print-rooms, textile workshops, as well as design studios, IT labs, teaching rooms and a Library.

1992 The City of London Polytechnic becomes London Guildhall University.

1999 The Goldsmith’s Company contribute a grant of £500,000 to establish the Sir John Cass Centre for Jewellery and Silversmithing in Central House.

2002 London Guildhall University merges with the University of North London to form London Metropolitan University.

2012 The ex-Guildhall Faculty of Art, Media and Design is merged with the ex-North London Faculty of Architecture and Spatial Design to form the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, dubbed the ‘Aldgate Bauhaus’. The Faculty’s award winning Architecture Research Unit (ARU), designs the refurbishment of Central House. Today the building houses art and architecture studios, workshops, media, lecture and seminar rooms, a public cafe, the Bank Gallery and Cass Windowspace.

2014 The Cass celebrated the 50th anniversary of the London College of Furniture with a major exhibition.

2015 Commercial Road is sold by London Metropolitan University for £53 million. The Cass resources and teaching facilities in Commercial Road are due to be moved to Calcutta House in July 2016.

2015 (October) London Metropolitan University announces its plan to sell Central House and move the whole of the Cass out of Aldgate to its main campus in Holloway in 2017.

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Cass Nacht © David Grandorge