General Projects have been granted consent to sympathetically restore the iconic South London listed landmarks, the former Walworth Town Hall and Newington Library, as an employment, education and community hub. Working collaboratively with Southwark Council, Historic England, and the local community, the properties will be transformed into a proud place of diverse opportunity, open to all members of the community. The workspaces, designed especially for small to medium-sized enterprises and local businesses, are expected to bring over 370 jobs into the building, producing a new employment hub for the creative industries, SMEs, as well as independent and local businesses.
Since a fire in 2013 left the building with significant internal damage, the majority of the building has remained vacant. Feix&Merlin, the architects on the scheme, have designed a striking and thoughtful proposal that will breathe new life into the building whilst being sensitive to the historic fabric of the Grade II listed building and re-establish the former town hall as a local and vibrant hub.
General Projects have placed community at the forefront of the design, ensuring that the heritage of Walworth Town Hall is not lost but respected through this contemporary interpretation. A hub for community and creatives alike, the design works to inspire and motivate, bringing a new lease of life to the building.
The workspaces will be operated by General Projects as creative serviced offices geared towards SMEs. This will be the developer’s second serviced office location after Expressway, their recently refurbished hub in the Royal Docks currently accommodating over 140 SMEs.
As part of the workspace offering, General Projects will also be rolling out their bespoke social impact programme which includes youth mentoring, graduate and apprenticeships programmes, affordable memberships, and local and sustainable sourcing.
General Projects’ proposal is anchored by a new public café within the main entrance lobby, which will be run by a local operator, and a new community centre. The community space will be operated by a third-party not-for-profit organisation that will be selected through an open process by a board consisting of General Projects, the council, and community representatives. The aspiration is for the community space to be available to local groups and organisations to provide a dynamic and stimulating programme for the local community.
The proposed design introduces a new grand entrance onto the Walworth Square, creating an organic link to the new square, where the new Mercato Metropolitano is set to open its newest location, and the new Elephant & Castle regeneration area.
The building’s new entrance sequence not only helps improve accessibility and circulation but also allows to create an atmosphere of community and collaboration, with the café and community rooms based on the ground floor, situated at the heart of the building.
Where the building has suffered most damage from the fire, namely the new café and the former council chamber, a new exposed CLT (cross-laminated timber) structure will be introduced. This not only allows for a more sustainable construction method but also to work with a warmer and more appropriate material for the building that references what was lost.
The remainder of the building will undergo a sensitive refurbishment that will seek to salvage and celebrate the existing fabric, with its highly significant rooms to be restored in a scholarly like for like manner and the other rooms to leave part of the damaged fabric on display. The proposal will deliver a striking architectural interior, blending new with old and offering inspiring and truly unique spaces for its users.
The proposal will also improve the existing external space by introducing a new landscaped courtyard and terrace space, promoting a biodiverse space positively contributing to the health and wellbeing of visitors and guests.
New landscaping is also proposed to the front garden spaces and the existing Memorial Garden will re-establish the attractive green frontage to the Walworth Road.
Construction is expected to commence in Q3, 2020 with an anticipated completion date for early 2023.