Essex, CO1 1JH
Free to all
Dedicated to contemporary visual art, firstsite occupies a striking crescent-shaped centre designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly – a work of art in its own right.
Sitting directly above Roman remains, the site is a fusion of old and new. One of the first things you notice on entering is the Berryfield mosaic, set into the floor below glass, which was originally part of a Roman townhouse. It's the only permanent item on show, as the centre has no art collection of its own. Instead, the three gallery spaces, radiating off a sweeping internal promenade, host a series of changing exhibitions and commissions from both local and international artists. Artists to have exhibited include Lubaina Himid, Grayson Perry and Ai Weiwei.
Firstsite also hosts a wide selection of events, film screenings and courses, with a particularly strong focus on activities for children and families – in 1996, it became the first visual arts organisation to dedicate an entire gallery to schools’ art, and community engagement is at the heart of its programming.