Southwark Town Hall
Location: Peckham Road
College/University: Goldsmiths University London
Status: Development complete
Completion: Summer 2016
Delivering a broader vision
Inclusion is the watchword for Southwark Town Hall’s redevelopment of college accommodation, with students having designs on how they live.
Historic buildings are part of the fabric of community life, and Southwark Town Hall has played an important role in Camberwell and the wider South London area for many years. The building was in serious need of renovation and Southwark Council was looking for a proposal that would involve and benefit the local community, as well as boost the area economically.
Having recently worked in partnership with the Camberwell College of Arts to redevelop the Town Hall’s neighbouring Georgian buildings into student accommodation, Southwark Council saw Alumno Developments as the perfect partner for the project.
“Our proposal for the Town Hall took a fresh approach which respected the history and character of existing buildings, but aimed to mark a new phase of history for this important site within the local community,” says Alumno managing director David Campbell. “It also took on board key local and national planning policies.”
Fitting with the Mayor of London’s Plan, which recognises the importance of higher education in the economy, the cornerstone of the proposal was to develop the grand Town Hall building for student living.
“This wonderful building provides light and spacious bedroom accommodation, as well as generous communal areas,” says Campbell. “What’s more, the main entrance and courtyard allows students to circulate between the Town Hall and the recently refurbished neighbouring student block without disrupting traffic and pedestrians. There is also a large shared common room, which uses the dramatic skyline view from the roof.”
However, Alumno’s plan went far beyond providing a high-quality and practical student living environment and preserving the character of the Old Town Hall building. It also provides major community benefits.
To create local jobs and investment opportunities, artist’s studios are located on the ground and lower ground floor levels for use by students and local artists. They feature plenty of natural light, easy access from the street, high ceilings and lots of floor space.
Meanwhile, student residents and the passing public will be able to gather in a proposed café gallery, also planned for the ground floor level of the main Town Hall building. If all goes to plan, it will be run by a local arts and community organisation.
Finally, Alumno worked with the nearby Theatre Peckham, which offers affordable performing arts classes to three to 18-year-olds, to improve its facilities. Plans included providing improved access to the venue, two new studios, a box office, new visitor facilities, offices, an entrance foyer and a refurbished performance space, while enhancing its overall presence.
“The new theatre will be great for the local community and is bound to increase interest in the arts,” says Theatre Peckham’s Artistic Director Teresa Early. “What’s more, our historic buildings are very important, so I welcome the renovation of the Town Hall and look forward having a pool of young artistic talent on our doorstep, who should have a natural affinity with our theatre.”
The site was also be improved aesthetically through carefully designed landscaping, with public access areas more clearly defined, enhancing the Sceaux Conservation Area in which the Town Hall is located.
Getting students involved
Of course, no matter how well planned a redevelopment and renewal project of this nature may be, it will not be a success without the buy-in of the residents and local community. So arguably the most impressive part of Alumno’s work to date has involved engaging with local people and businesses to raise awareness of the project and its aims, and gain important feedback.
As around 120 students will be living on the site, Alumno was keen to get this group represented too. Consequently, it has worked with Chelsea College of Art and Design to develop the interior of the new development.
The highly creative and innovative approach involved an initial briefing on site for students and their lecturers, covering key elements such as appreciation of historical context, sensitivity to community, needs of students and mixed use tenants. Alumno, architects Jestico+Whiles and the college professors then laid down a challenge to the students to come up with design concepts for the roof top common room, café and ground floor entranceways.
“The students went away and worked in groups to replicate real-world design teams,” explains Campbell. “We were really impressed with their ideas, which were very varied. Some focused on the exterior use, others on the interiors. Some were very conceptual, others had thought through construction details. Some had stunning visual images, while others relied on models or verbal explanation.”
Ideas from the students were considered by Alumno and were incorporated into the interior design of the new buildings. The completion of the project was in September 2016, Camberwell has gained from an inclusive development, true to its historic heritage, which will benefit the local community, and provide an economic boost to the area by growing the existing higher education hub.
A SIDEWAYS GLANCE
Alumno commissioned the photographer Martin Gray to do a photographic study of the area surrounding the student development site. A selection of his images can be seen below.