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First look 

HAT reworks Grade II-listed Redbridge Town Hall as studio spaces and public exhibition space

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The light-touch retrofit for studio provider SPACE, designed for a five-year period, forms part of a planned new cultural quarter in Ilford

This project transforms the southern end of the Town Hall’s ground floor – originally built as a public library – into a new cultural hub. The ground floor now houses a new public gallery, an events space, accessible artist studios as well as SPACE’s own offices, while part of the 3rd and 4th floors of the Town Hall have been converted into artist studios as well. 

The short-term nature of the project prescribed a light-touch approach with minimal intervention internally, with renovation works focused on refreshing the existing spaces, stripping back layers of visual clutter and revealing and celebrating original 1920s features such as decorative wall tiling and parquet flooring

Externally bolder moves have been used to signal the changed use of the building, with a new neon-red sign in giant letters and a new entrance formed with a sculptural ramp and steps using concrete and York stone detailing. 

The project is part of a wider GLA-supported regeneration project - Spark Ilford – which is intended to transform the Town Hall and its surrounding area into a new cultural quarter for Ilford, with a focus on creating community-orientated spaces. 

Hat vile7692

Hat vile7692

Source: Philip Vile

Architect’s view

The lack of accessible access into the southern end of the Town Hall led to the wonderful opportunity to create a new public entrance into the former library building, enlivening an otherwise utilitarian façade and reorienting the building towards the developing cultural quarter of Ilford. The historical significance of the Grade II listed Town Hall and the public focused nature of the new gallery guided the design towards a “grand entrance” arrangement of steps and ramps. The materials used for the entrance were also influenced by the listed building - concrete and york stone chosen to complement the existing brick and stone facades.

While working with a listed building had its obvious constraints, the “flank wall” location of the entrance allowed for more freedom and less formality. The existing cylindrical forms of previous additions to the original building inspired the ramp’s curved concrete drum, allowing the entrance platform to take a more sculptural form. SPACE’s ambassador-like role as one of the first completed Spark initiatives on the site also called for bolder moves. SPACE’s presence in the Town Hall is spelled out in large red neon letters wrapped around the existing brick drum of the escape stairs, while a large billboard above the new ramps provides a blank canvas to be filled by the Town Hall’s new artists in residence. The idea of bringing part of the internal world of studios and exhibitions out into the public realm was a key part of the entrance’s design, and one that reflected SPACE’s role as an advocator and promoter of independent artists.

Helena McCarthy, project architect, HAT Projects

Hat vile7716

Hat vile7716

Source: Philip Vile

Client’s view 

This is a landmark building that we fell in love with and artists are breathing new life into. SPACE was excited to work with HAT and the London Borough of Redbridge to provide affordable workspace, creative programmes, training and employment opportunities in Ilford town centre. We were glad that the borough supported our vision that the creativity of artists can build new employment and training opportunities for Redbridge residents and help the borough transform the town centre as a destination.

HAT’s experience in working sensitively with listed public buildings was a huge asset. The newly created entrance brings you into a sequence of spaces, a beautifully naturally lit lobby leads to an airy and top lit gallery in a former library. The quality of space created far exceeded our wildest dreams on such a modest budget. HAT really respected the intrinsic qualities of the building, including listed features such as tiling and woodwork. Their attention to detail was much appreciated. It’s great to have had the opportunity to create high quality space for creative use for the benefit of local residents. As an artist support organisation we are well versed in working ingeniously to make best use of very modest budgets. We are delighted with the results, hope this will inspire creativity and look forward to welcoming visitors back once we are able to re-open.

Anna Harding, CEO, SPACE

Redbridge hat 200625 annotateddrawings page 1

Redbridge hat 200625 annotateddrawings page 1

Source: HAT Projects

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site April 2019
Completion date December 2019
Gross internal floor area 1,936 sqm
Gross (internal + external) floor area 2,038 sqm
Form of contract or procurement route Traditional
Construction cost £430,000.00
Construction cost per sqm £211sqm
Architect HAT Projects
Client SPACE and London Borough of Redbridge
Structural engineer Graeme Allen Consultancy
Internal signage Modern Activity
CDM coordinator Pierce Hill Project Services
Approved building inspector Building Control Services
Main contractor Cuttle Construction
CAD software used Microstation

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