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Bethnal Green Town Hall

Part 2 Project 2002
Bianca Valido Leach
Paul Jones
Kingston University, UK
This proposal for a Town Hall for Bethnal Green consists of an urban gesture that creates a place of reconciliation, with an architecture that is both grounded within its context and attempts to respond to the cultural situation.

The Town Hall building is situated in the north part of Bethnal Green Gardens, in close proximity to the town´s church and main commercial activity, creating a public square that then connects to the existing park. The excavation of this site allows the present Underground ticket hall level to open out onto the proposed public square, becoming the ground level of the Town Hall and gradually rising to meet the park.

The building anchors the public square, park and street levels in an attempt to address the issue of access to the process of political representation. The Town Hall´s programme contributes towards this, offering a Local History Museum, places of local gathering and festivity, a seat of debate, local council services and registry, and several public hireable rooms. All these are accessed from the public exterior spaces that take place throughout the entire building, culminating in the public roofscape that offers a view back onto the city.

The appropriateness of the use of brick in this East End neighbourhood allows an architecture of thick brick walls that contain public spaces, responding to the scale of the city. These walls are then lined to contain the more specific programme; defining a difference between what is secure and what is environment.

In its urban situation, programme and construction, this project attempts to provide a Hall for the town of Bethnal Green; and is primarily concerned with the cultural, social and political implications of architecture, and its place within the mundane.

Bianca Valido Leach
Paul Jones

The work of the unit is to propose a concrete architecture that is both grounded within its context and responsive to deeper issues of the cultural situation.

This year we were looking for some common ground on which to found an idea of contemporary civic architecture. The vehicle for this was the design of a Town Hall and an associated urban redevelopment project in Bethnal Green, East London.

The project sought to recover the idea of the town hall as a place of civic interaction, where ‘access’, both physical and political, to the process of public representation is paramount. We began by focusing on the etymological difference between municipal and civic and the ontological chasm which opens up between them.

Bianca’s project is both subtle and sophisticated. At its heart is a new public square which is located below grade at the level of the existing tube station ticket office. The town hall building is placed between the square and the Green whilst allowing the square, the Green and the street to permeate it. The building is an open brick and concrete structure which acts as a container for the several grounds that are being brought into play. The building is at once a route and destination, topography and place.

The principal rooms are located around the new public square and the routes through the building. The building remains open, both to people and the elements, all the way to the roof; which allows the normal formal hierarchies of such buildings to be reoriented. This is made possible by layering internal timber linings onto the raw structure which define thresholds and provide an environment for inhabitation.

The building is strong, poetic and grounded and, above all, good architecture.

• Page Hits: 3311         • Entry Date: 18 September 2002         • Last Update: 18 September 2002