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Wigan Life Centre, Wigan, United Kingdom

Friday 29 Jun 2012

Northern charm

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Astudio & LCE Architects regenerate Wigan's historic town centre 

Completed in December 2011, the challenge that faced Astudio / LCE Architects in a 50/50 collaboration was to create a joint services centre for Wigan Council that would house a one-stop shop for council services as well as a library and swimming pool, while also improving the local townscape and providing a catalyst for regeneration.

The Wigan Life Centre scheme more than meets this brief. By knitting the symbolic power of the existing Victorian Town Hall to a dynamic modern design and integrating it into the wider public realm, the Astudio/LCE team has created a new type of civic campus: open and welcoming, but also reasserting the strength of public institutions.

It was decided to split the scheme into two buildings on either side of the Town Hall, maintaining the scale of the streetscape while making the Town Hall the centrepiece. Several key design decisions enable the new buildings to complement the surrounding conservation area.

The northern building is a brilliant example of how the new lightly touches the old: a striking, and highly sustainable, glass box inserted behind an existing Grade II-listed terracotta-brick facade, separated by a lightwell. Clever use of perforated metal louvers allows the top floor above the retained facade to resemble the slate roofs of adjacent buildings while maximising daylight within.

Both buildings have been designed using efficient ventilation and green energy strategies such as a shared CHP, with capacity to be connected in the future to adjacent properties. All these contribute to a BREEAM rating of 'Very Good'. Also in line with the brief, transparency and accessibility are emphasised throughout: double-height spaces make services easy to find, and two new public squares connect the campus to the town.

By opening up new visual and spatial links between the Town Hall and the historic centre, Astudio/LCE's ambitious design makes its presence felt far beyond the boundaries of this one PFI project, reimagining the heart of Wigan as a dynamic civic space.

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