Developer Urban Splash has won approval to revamp Plymouth’s Civic Centre – more than four years after it bought the Grade II-listed post-war landmark
The proposal, by Gillespie Yunnie Architects, will see the 14-storey former council headquarters converted into 144 one and two-bedroom flats with the ground floors of the lower blocks providing about 4,600m² of office, retail and leisure space.
Unanimously approved last week, the scheme will open up the ground floor, making it ‘an active public space filled with outside seating for cafés, bars and restaurants’ and reuse the existing landscaped pools, while creating new pedestrian connections through the scheme from the Theatre Royal and Civic Square.
The practice previously worked with Urban Splash on its transformation of the city’s Royal William Yard, which won the 2014 AJ Small Projects Sustainability Prize.
The Devon-based practice landed the Civic Centre job in 2015 shortly after the developer signed a deal with Plymouth City Council to buy the empty 1961 block for just £1.
Urban Splash and Gillespie Yunnie Architects’ approved proposals for the overhaul of the Grade II-listed Plymouth Civic Centre [January 2020]
Designed by Hector JW Stirling, the 15-storey post-war building was handed a Grade II listing in 2007, effectively saving it from demolition by the local authority, which had earmarked the site for redevelopment. At the time, the listing caused controversy, with the council claiming it would threaten its ambitious city-centre masterplan.
The council said it would cost about £30 million for it to restore the building and had therefore decided to move out and sell the property.
The former Civic Centre sits at the southern end of the area which formed the focus of Patrick Abercrombie’s famous Plan for Plymouth, an ambitious plan to rebuild the centre after the devastating Second World War bombing of the city.
Gillespie Yunnie’s proposals for the landmark went out to consultation in June 2018 and submitted early last year.
The Twentieth Century Society had objected to the proposed new façades, warning that the proposed floor-to-ceiling windows, smaller granite panels and bronze-coloured frames would cause ’substantial harm to the building’s architectural and historic significance’.
However, Historic England had supported the application, saying any harm to the block was outweighed by the benefits of bringing it back into use and conserving it.
A future timescale is not yet known.
Client - Urban Splash
Architect - Gillespie Yunnie Architect
Project Managers - Ward Williams
Structural engineer - Hydrock
M&E consultant - Hoare Lea
Quantity surveyor - Faithful+Gould
Shutterstock a view of plymouths armada way showing the civic centre and the italianate guildhall tower