The practice has converted and extended a Grade II-listed former post office into 2,350m² of studios for Hartlepool Borough Council and the Northern School of Art
Leeds-based practice Group Ginger has extended and renovated a Grade II-listed former post office into a workspace and studio on the west side of Hartlepool for the Northern School of Art. The project was conceived as part of a redevelopment plan for the area. The long-term revitalisation strategy for the Church Street Conservation Area focuses on the delivery of an Innovation and Skills Quarter for the city.
Group Ginger initially worked closely with Hartlepool Borough Council and commercial property consultant Cushman & Wakefield to develop a masterplan for the area. They identified key built assets and areas for public sector investment, along with future partners with which an active community could be developed. A heritage-focused community activity programme helped introduce the Northern School of Art and its growing group of students as key stakeholder partners for a workspace and studio project.
Working collaboratively with Reform Landscape and stakeholders, they masterplanned a range of six projects to be delivered over time, including public realm improvements to both Church Street and Church Square, the refurbishment of the Grade I-listed Shades Hotel, new-build student accommodation, the Northern School of Art’s new studios and finally, the reappropriation of the former post office into the new Whitby Street Studios.
Group Ginger was commissioned to extend the existing post office building with a new fourth wing. Tying together the refurbishment and new-build elements is a covered courtyard which provides a social gathering space for hosting events and links the two parts of the building. The gold new-build extension is smaller in mass than the listed part, accommodating flexible teaching spaces for art and design for the art school.
Within the old part of the original post office, brickwork and ceilings have been left exposed to provide high thermal mass, helping to reduce running costs and maintain user flexibility. Building envelop performance has been enhanced by replacing the original sash windows and improving insulation.
Placement of lift access has enabled all spaces within the new and existing parts of Whitby Street Studios to be fully accessible.
Revitalisation of a Victorian Grade II-listed asset:
The refurbishment and extension of the listed post office building provides a serviced facility offering studios for start-up enterprises, flexible teaching spaces and a social networking environment. The project is aimed at graduates from the art and design college to help retain knowledge and skills in the city.
Working with the conservation officer, we agreed an approach where new interventions and alterations are clearly articulated. We have considered options for careful adaptation, only making small interventions where completely necessary to make the building functional and work more seamlessly as a whole. This approach helped to preserve a raw freshness that architecture normally removes. As ’architects of adaptation’ we play a part in multiple different authors: the architects, the previous occupiers, the owners, the new occupants, the visitors and the artists. Each author contributes to the overall composition. The design approach of retention, adaptation and addition creates a conversation between new and old, where the original building is the dominant feature.
The existing building is extended by providing a new fourth wing, enclosing the central area to create a common social space, which links the new and old, unifying the spaces into a single facility. The new building is distinct, modern and clearly separate but complementary to the existing building. The massing of the new build extension complements the existing building: the new extension is smaller in mass compared to the listed building. The spaces within the new building are designed to preserve flexibility and offer alternative accommodation to the spaces within the existing building, the new spaces offer flexible teaching spaces for an art and design college.
Group Ginger has brought a wealth of experience and expertise to ensure the creative aims of the project have been embedded at every stage. Its vision, enthusiasm and attention to detail have delivered a successful flexible workspace that is unique to the North East and provides a real catalyst for the regeneration.
Israr Hussain, economic growth and regeneration manager, Hartlepool Borough Council
Start on site October 2017
Completion date March 2019
Gross internal floor area 2,350m²
Form of contract or procurement route Traditional
Construction cost £3.8 million
Construction cost per m2 £1,617
Architect Group Ginger
Clients Hartlepool Borough Council, Northern School of Art
Structural engineer Buro Happold
M&E consultant Buro Happold
Lighting consultant Delta Light
Quantity surveyor Michael Eyres Partnership
Project manager Michael Eyres Partnership
Main contractor Gus Robbinson Developments
CAD software used Revit