Elliott Architects worked collaboratively with Space Architects and Newcastle University to transform the former Claremont Buildings, a historic Grade II-listed building in the heart of Newcastle, which had laid vacant for several years and fallen into a state of disrepair.
Although a listed building, significantly more adaptions had been made within the 1905 extension, and fewer original features remained, including the original façades on the ground floor which had been replaced with unsympathetic 1970s additions. As a principle, we looked to use this part of the building as the new contemporary entrance, which is mirrored to the east, creating a connection through the building and helping to further animate the entre.
To the south-west of the centre, a pedestrian forecourt has been created to allow people to gather while active frontages to the building help to draw people in, making it appealing and accessible to all.
Inside, a sunken seating space was created, (by opening-up a section of the floor into the basement), encouraging debate and discussion in the heart of the building in a prominent and publicly visible location.
A new, brightly coloured feature accommodation staircase bisects the building, drawing visitors towards the gallery spaces and urban rooms to the upper levels, reinforcing the key concepts of being welcoming, open and accessible to all. The areas within the building are layered, moving from public to private on the upper floors with the stair demonstrating how historic buildings can be creatively repurposed with a balance of contemporary intervention and sympathetic restoration.
A key part of the design interior involved exposing and restoring the original brickwork and fireplaces, which are set against the playful, stylised geometric motif of the staircase – a nod to the Postmodern era.
To ensure the building was accessible at all levels, a lift was installed within the existing lightwell in the centre of the footprint. Glass landing doors were specified, so that borrowed light was maintained and also allows the original glazed brickwork within the shaft to be displayed.
Our proposal seeks to implement Farrell’s philosophy by establishing an exemplar ‘urban room’; a welcoming, shared facility to serve the region and its communities, encouraging engagement and debate around our built environment. The design retains and creatively adapts the listed building, demonstrating how buildings need to evolve and regenerate, in order to stay relevant.