A vision for the future - designing the new town hall
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
The design brief
The new Town Hall at the former Royal London Hospital site will be the focus of the council’s administrative, democratic and customer services functions within the borough. It will be the hub from which services are provided to the borough’s residents and the main venue for engagement between the council and its customers.
The proposal will provide an accessible, free flowing public environment at street level with a contemporary working environment for council staff and elected councillors on upper floors.
The ground floor of the proposed building will be a permeable ‘local presence’ space, accessible from all external directions of approach. It will provide tier 1 (drop-in) access to the council’s customer services team alongside library and study space, served by a café, within a vibrant open plan environment. More formal meeting space for pre-arranged tier 2 and tier 3 engagement will also be provided including a dedicated space for the borough’s Housing Options team currently located at Albert Jacob House.
A council chamber, providing the borough’s civic focal point, will also be located within this environment. It will be used for a variety of meetings, conferences and training events and its functionality will be complimented by a number of smaller committee rooms shared between council departments and the democratic services team.
The proposal for the new Tower Hamlets Town Hall divides the requirements of the brief between the existing Grade II listed former Royal London Hospital building fronting Whitechapel Road and a significantly sized new build extension to the rear of this building. The hospital’s iconic street elevation will be restored and a new public entrance created at the base of the Grocers’ Wing. To the rear of the building, the existing 18th century south elevation is to be revealed through the removal of later additions and will form a historical backdrop to the new build spaces beyond.
It has always been the intention to expose the historic fabric of the existing hospital building wherever possible. This will enhance the spaces within and create a unique environment for use by the public and council staff. The Georgian brickwork associated with the original 1757 hospital and the terrazzo floors associated with the operating theatres, added in 1906, has now been revealed. An ongoing challenge for the project’s design team is the incorporation of historically significant elements into the design as these are uncovered on site, such that they form an integral part of the new Town Hall environment. Frequent site visits and an open-minded approach to design opportunities as these arise are essential for the nature of this project.
The design team are excited about the next stage of the construction programme when the sub-structure and superstructure are built. Through this, we will be able to experience the range of double and triple height spaces created between the existing building and its new extension allowing each to compliment the other.