Architects Haworth Tompkins have completed a 12 year transformation of the Grade II* listed Battersea Arts Centre. Begun as an extended, improvisatory collaboration with artists, theatre producers and the local community, the entire former town hall building is now in use for creative and community activity, increasing the number of performance spaces from 4 to 35 and incorporating artists’ bedrooms, a new rooftop office and staff garden, a creative business hub, a community allotment and an outdoor theatre.
Architect and client worked as equal partners throughout the process, sharing design authorship and inviting creative collaborations.
Following a devastating fire three years ago, the famous Grand Hall has been radically re-imagined as a 21st century performance space, allowing the organisation to host bigger productions, community celebrations and revenue generating events. A new bar installation by artist Jake Tilson records the evidence of the fire, as do the scarred, unrestored walls of the hall. The timber lattice ceiling borrows the decorative pattern of the original plaster vault but allows far greater technical and acoustic possibilities.
Battersea Arts Centre is a public space where people come together to be creative, see a show, explore the local heritage, play or relax. The organisation’s mission is to inspire people, to take creative risks, to shape the future.
Battersea Arts Centre encourages people to test and develop new ideas with members of the public – a process called Scratch. Scratch is used by artists to make theatre, by young people to develop entrepreneurial ideas and as a helpful process for anyone who wants to get creative. The area of South West London and the old town hall in which Battersea Arts Centre is based, are rich in heritage. From April 2016 the organisation is custodian of the Wandsworth Collection, using creativity to explore the past and imagine the future.