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Our buildings and facilities

Our building

We are proud of our building's heritage, and the associations with those who have lived there over the years.

History of the Gordon Square building

  • Gordon Square was developed in the 1820s by Thomas Cubitt, then London’s best known builder. It is famous for its association with the Bloomsbury Group, a collective of intellectuals, writers and artists, including Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster, who lived and worked around Bloomsbury in the first half of the 20th century.
  • In the first decade of the twentieth century, Vanessa (born in 1879) and Virginia (born in 1882) Stephens moved, with their brothers Thoby and Adrian, from the family home in fashionable but conventional South Kensington to 46 Gordon Square in bohemian Bloomsbury. They rented the house together until Vanessa Stephen's marriage in 1907 to the art critic Clive Bell, whereupon Virginia moved to set up a new home with her brother Adrian at 29 Fitzroy Square, to the west just across Tottenham Court Road.
  • After Vanessa and Clive Bell moved from Bloomsbury to Sussex in 1916, 46 Gordon Square was occupied by the celebrated economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). In 1925 he married the Russian Lydia Lopokova, a prima ballerina in the Diaghilev company. She moved in 1948 to Cambridge, but her housekeeper still lived in the basement flat as late as the early 1970s.
  • Now home to Birkbeck’s School of Arts, we are proud to remember the building’s heritage. There is a striking nineteenth century library named in honour Keynes. After decades of use as a teaching facility, the room has been refurbished to its former glory following a gift from Birkbeck alumna, Patsy Hickman.
  • In keeping with the property’s strong artistic and intellectual connections, paintings by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant have been loaned to Birkbeck by Bell’s daughter, Angelica Garnett, and currently grace the walls of the Keynes Library.

Our facilities

Our building houses beautiful and atmospheric rooms, and state-of-the-art facilities for the use of staff of students.

The Keynes Library

Gordon Square Cinema

  • The Birkbeck Cinema at 43 Gordon Square, which opened in 2007 won a Royal Institute of British Architecture Award (RIBA) in the London category – the gold standard in architectural prizes.
  • The annual RIBA Awards are given for buildings that have high architectural standards and make a substantial contribution to the local environment. Winners in the same London category as Birkbeck included the new Wembley Stadium, St Pancras and Terminal Five at Heathrow Airport.
  • As well as the cinema itself, there are multi-coloured break-out spaces for informal meetings and studying.
  • We hosts regular free film screenings and the cinema is an important resource for the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, which is also housed in the School of Arts.
  • Take a look at our events page to find out about upcoming screenings.

Gordon Square cafe

  • Located on the ground floor of 43 Gordon Square, the café offers a wide selection of freshly prepared sandwiches, pasties, cakes, confectionery, soft drinks and fair-trade tea and coffee.
  • Opening times - term time:
    • Monday-Friday, 9am-10pm (9am-4pm in the holidays)
    • Saturday 10am-4pm.

Theatre and performance space

  • The School of Arts has its own dedicated theatre space. The ground floor room in 43 Gordon Square has been adapted and refurbished to provide a well-equipped practice room for up to 30 students. Its floor is covered with a high quality cushioned dance floor and from its ceiling hangs a state-of the-art lighting rig. A second room houses the collection of costumes and theatre programmes and provides a viewing room for the collection of theatre DVDs.
  • Not only does the room allow theatre students to enjoy practical classes and to mount pieces of performance as part of their studies, it also offers a space for the Centre for Contemporary Theatre’s associated practicing professional artists to run workshops and develop their work.
  • The room was officially launched on Wednesday 22 May 2014, as part of the theatre-focused events happening throughout Arts Week 2014. Arts Week events included several public performances in the new room, opening it to the public for the first time.