The Grade II listed building was designed by Lanchester and Lodge in the 1930’s, with high quality materials and craftsmanship that reflected the sense of civic pride of the times. After years of intensive use and little investment, the building and its services were in desperate need of repair and updating.
We started working with the council to establish a masterplan for the entire collection of buildings around the Town Hall, including a new service centre and annex, new shop fronts for local people to pay their rent or parking fines, and transforming the public realm that brought the disparate buildings together.
The wider development plans enable the council to decant a great deal of the building’s office space but there was still a need to work round important activities like voting in elections, council debate and public engagement and weddings.
We started thinking about how the building could work harder for the council, using every inch of floor space and introducing new uses that could generate much needed revenue. The council was keen to see the offices upgraded and modernised with new spaces for conferences performance and celebrations. The most important driving force was to bring the building into wider public use.
This approach started at the front door where the entrance hall was opened up, with new “high tech” reception desks and clear wayfinding. A great deal of physical clutter was removed, and the original finishes painstakingly restored. We reorganised the building circulation roofing over two lightwells to create new event spaces, increasing the usable space by 60%. The Assembly Rooms have been fully restored, with a new bar, so that the whole building complex has become a series of income generators.
A particular feature has been the rediscovery of handcrafts to restore leather work, french polishing and carpentry and to replace light fittings and ironmongery with matching materials. To achieve this, we brought local craftsmen out of retirement and published a book about their experience at the Town Hall.