Town Hall’s student makeover

Alumno gets green light for sympathetic redevelopment of London landmark Southwark Town Hall

Planning permission has been granted for Alumno Developments’ ambitious redevelopment proposals for London’s Southwark Town Hall. Consultation with the local community and the student users was key to the acceptance of Alumno’s plans for the transformation of the former Town Hall into student accommodation and a publicly accessible theatre and café, as well as artists’ studios.

Additional support for the popular scheme came from a group of distinguished theatre luminaries including Sir Ian McKellen, David Harewood, Jenny Agutter and Jude Law. Law, 40, who grew up nearby, said: ‘I was delighted to learn of Alumno’s plans to not only develop the site for student accommodation and artists’ studios, but also to include Theatre Peckham in the proposals. This will extend further the emerging and notable artistic and creative community within this part of south London.’

‘Right from the start we worked as closely as possible with everyone involved in the project,’ said David Campbell, managing director of specialist educational accommodation developers, Alumno. ‘We forged strong partnerships that ensured a deep-rooted understanding of each proposal’s specific requirements. This is our third development in Southwark and will re-invigorate the old Town Hall, opening its doors to a wide cross-section of the community.

‘Our plan takes a fresh and sustainable approach that respects the history and character of existing buildings and marks a new phase of the history of this important site within the local community.”

The development will provide bedroom accommodation for 152 students and will include adaptable communal areas. There are also plans for a large shared common room/study area which will open up the dramatic skyline view from the roof.

The elegant 1930s façade – a local landmark – and the main structure of the building on Peckham Road will be refurbished, retaining a number of key features.

In addition to preserving the character of the main building, Southwark council wanted a plan that would involve and benefit the local community, and boost the area economically.

Cllr. Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration and corporate strategy, said ‘I’mdelighted that these exciting plans can now move ahead. Like many people, I have fond memories of the Camberwell Town Hall and I’m really looking forward to it getting a new lease of life. Southwark is home to three universities and has a thriving student population which helps make our borough a vibrant and interesting place to live – those students need somewhere affordable to live. Purpose built student accommodation can also help take pressure off the general rental market.’

She continued: ‘It’s also great news for Theatre Peckham, which can look forward to moving into a larger, modern auditorium, foyer and backstage area – and for local artists who will be able to rent space at below market rents.’

As structural work begins on the development, scheduled for completion in 2016, Alumno is extending its consultation with students to benefit those who will eventually live in and use it. Breaking new ground at the planning stage, they worked with students of Chelsea College of Art and Design to develop the interior of the new development.

At that time, they set up 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.

Together with college professors, Alumno architects Jestico+Whiles challenged the students to come up with design concepts for the roof top common room, café and ground floor entranceways. ‘The students worked in groups to replicate real-world design teams,’ explained Campbell. ‘We were really impressed with their ideas. Some focused on the exterior use, others on the interiors. Some were very conceptual, while others had thought-through construction details. Some came with stunning visual images.’

The best of these will be incorporated into the interior design of the new buildings in an effort to provide facilities that are closely matched to the needs and tastes of their prospective users.


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