Haworth Tompkins, in collaboration with Battersea Arts Centre, is pleased to announce that Wandsworth Borough Council has granted planning permission for the reconstruction and refurbishment of the Grade II* listed Grand Hall at Battersea Arts Centre, following the severe fire of 13th March 2015. Before the fire, work had been underway to improve the building for its community. Since 2007, Battersea Arts Centre and architects Haworth Tompkins have been engaged in an intensely collaborative project to create a 21st century home for creativity in a 19th century Town Hall.
Together, they have developed an innovative working methodology (named Playgrounding) to explore the possibilities of transforming the entire building into a vivid and adaptable performance environment, a welcoming centre of community life and civil society, a nurturing home for artists and an exemplar for resilient cultural buildings in a fast changing world. The Old Town Hall, in which Battersea Arts Centre is housed, is formed of two distinct parts – the Municipal building to the south and the Grand Hall building to the north.
As a result of the fire, the upper parts of the Grand Hall were largely destroyed and there is considerable damage to the remaining fabric, finishes and fittings at low level. The adjacent Octagonal Hall and Grand Hall Bar are damaged by smoke. The Lower Hall level, below the Grand Hall, suffered significant damage due to the water needed to put out the flames, and all areas have since deteriorated further due to unavoidable exposure to the elements. The stained glass dome crowning the Octagonal Hall was saved and the Municipal building was unaffected by the fire, reopening after only 26 hours and housing a full programme of activity ever since.
In May 2015, a Feasibility Study was undertaken to examine the options for rebuilding. The assessment of the architectural and social significance of the building was a key part of this and has informed the development of the approach to the reconstruction in which the external envelope will be rebuilt to match the original with minor modifications. Internally, the elements of the Grand Hall that have survived the fire will be retained and, where required, refurbished or stabilised; a new timber lattice ceiling, demountable side galleries and a technical gallery at high level are proposed to replace lost elements.
The organ, largely off site undergoing restoration at the time of the fire, will be relocated to the balcony. The Lower Hall level, which had been refurbished before the fire, will also be returned to its pre-fire condition. Operationally, the Grand Hall will be significantly improved, allowing for a wider range of events to take place with more efficient transitions between them. The Lower Hall will become a hub housing a curated range of creative start-up businesses.
Steve Tompkins, Director, Haworth Tompkins said: “We took the decision with Battersea Arts Centre to make manifest the changes caused by the fire and to replace lost elements with contemporary material rather than replicas. This approach is integral to our decade long transformation project elsewhere in the building, each phase of which has been an architectural mediation between the important listed fabric of the old town hall and the 21st century creative activity that it nurtures. In developing our design solution, the imaginative support of the local community, Historic England and the Wandsworth planning and conservation team has been invaluable.”
David Jubb, Artistic Director, Battersea Arts Centre said: “People’s response to the fire was very moving, everyone involved with Battersea Arts Centre was touched by the breadth and depth of people’s kindness. I think it has been a manifestation of the value of public, cultural spaces in which we share memorable life-shaping events together, from a public debate to a wedding, from a performance to a beer festival. As we rebuild the Grand Hall we will use up to 10,000 of the bricks from the original building. The salvage operation and the redesign work has been a huge labour of love.
I am so grateful to everyone who has creatively contributed to the future of the Grand Hall, a public process brilliantly led by Haworth Tompkins. Our insurers, Aviva, have given a great deal of support and shown real originality by supporting the alternative design for rebuilding the Grand Hall. As a result, we will be able to host more diverse events every year, enabling more people to share life-changing moments in this special building.” Source and image Courtesy of Haworth Tompkins.
Article by Marco Rinaldi