Old town, new tricks

Nicole Woodman
Tuesday 29 Jun 2010

Town hall restored to former glory through innovative refurbishment

As part of the London Borough of Hackney’s Public Access and Accommodation programme, HawkinsBrown was appointed to carry out the design and implementation of the refurbishment and restoration of the Grade ll listed Town Hall and Assembly Hall to improve public access, redefine the relationships between public / private spaces both internal and externally, improve the office accommodation and to refurbish and restore the more signifcant spaces within the building, the Assembly Hall and Council Chamber for public use, as well as bringing back into the heart of the community a well loved and much missed landmark.

Perhaps the largest design move was to create a new contemporary entrance and reception between the two main buildings of the Town Hall and Assembly Hall in a former passage way and store area. This not only united the two buildings making it more efficient to manage but enabled a clear and fully accessible route into the buildings from the high street via new landscaping and the removal of the original car parking. It also exposed some hidden treasures, panels of historic brickwork inlaid into the Assembly Hall walls from a former Tudor mansion which was once on the site and WWII camouflage from the time when the buildings were commandeered in part, as a district MOD civil defence centre, which is still evident on the front elevation.

The Assembly Hall has been brought back to life and to its former glory with sensitive alterations, now permitting local schools’ plays to be shown, weddings of all faiths, touring shows, concerts, tea dances, conference and large group functions and celebrations to take place in the heart of Stoke Newington.The area that had seen the greatest neglect and abuse was the classically domed ceilinged Council Chamber, concealed and unseen for the best part of 40 years. Used for storing filing cabinets and with a suspended ceiling unsympathetically installed in the early 1970s to the detriment of the fabric, great skill and care was applied to restore the damaged gold leafed fibrous plaster cornices and hardwood panelling to reveal the true beauty and quality of the space.

Traditional and contemporary quality materials were incorporated into the new extension including etched bronze paneling, Yorkstone, reconstituted marble flooring, mirror and clear glazed windows and rooflights, offset by contemporary furniture and fittings for display and information, not only reflecting the buildings twentieth century heritage but sympathetically interpreting and moving it into this century.

Internally, full restoration and refurbishment took place throughout incorporating fully integrated and adaptable AV, theatre lighting, scene set controls and IT provisions for multi-media use, enabling the council to offer the opportunity of a number of functions within the Assembly Hall and Chamber with the reception providing public access to the community and the authority’s information.

Other works included: restoring the original and rare hardwood sprung dance floor back into use, bespoke suspended coffer lighting, a new huge mirror ball as its centre piece, converting existing lower ground cloakrooms utilising the original fixtures and fittings, to provide ‘quirky’ new compliant toilet facilities, with full accessibility, a bespoke curved table reminiscent of the original chamber furniture, sadly now lost, new ‘minimilist’ pews of walnut to the public gallery etc.

Key Facts:

Civic Buildings
United Kingdom

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