Tower Hamlets Town Hall, London – Projects
Community & Public
- Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
- London Borough of Tower Hamlets
When the London Borough of Tower Hamlets sought to consolidate their offices and create a welcoming, accessible community hub in the heart of the borough, the former Royal London Hospital building in Whitechapel offered the perfect setting. Dating back to the 1750s, with a two-storey rooftop extension added in the early 1900s, the Grade-II listed building stands as a significant piece of heritage in the community, which the local authority and design team have celebrated and restored.
Designed with architects AHMM, the project comprised a complicated refurbishment of the existing building, along with the construction of a new, exposed RC-frame extension to create a landmark Town Hall. Providing Structural and Civil engineering services, Elliott Wood prioritised sustainability and minimal intervention throughout the design, devising intelligent solutions to attenuate the impact of any additional load on the existing infrastructure of, and around, the site.
The existing structure was retained and sympathetically repaired using site investigations and historic codes to avoid the need for significant replacement, allowing the careful insertion of new lift shafts and service openings within the existing fabric. Introducing large, steel box frames at ground floor level enabled the team to make a feature of the existing historic steelwork while opening up the space to create a welcoming arrival hall, leading through to the striking atrium of the adjoining new build wing.
The Grocer’s Wing building, also part of the old hospital, was founded directly on top of a disused London Underground tunnel. Through complex negotiations with Transport for London we were able to retain the historic facade and reuse the existing foundations, which are supported by the tunnel structure, while replacing the internal structure with a lightweight steel frame. At ground floor, the retained facade was removed and replaced with a series of slim steel-blade columns supporting the existing structure above. This bespoke, visually minimal structure allows the new glazed curtain walling to create a dramatic new entrance to the town hall.
The new RC-frame extension, housing additional office space for the borough council, sits behind the existing building, to the south. The extension features a breathtaking triple-height atrium and footbridges at each level, linking between the old and new. To speed up construction and ensure a good finish on the exposed concrete frame, which is on a 9mx9m grid, the perimeter RC columns and some core walls were constructed from precast elements. At ground floor, a large 18mx18m grillage of transfer beams spans the column-free space of the new Council Chamber to support the 6-storey columns of the office space above. The team developed this complex yet efficient solution, and created an at scale mock-up to ensure that the final construction achieved the desired aspirations.
Below ground, our Civil Engineers implemented a sustainable drainage system to hold and reuse water around the building, reducing the burden on the local combined sewer network and addressing water scarcity issues. The active attenuation system holds enough water to fully service the demand for harvested water throughout the building, and as a result, it is likely the site will never need to discharge to the sewer. Using emerging technology to combine rainwater harvesting and attenuation significantly reduced the volume of water storage required at basement level, saving around 500m3 of excavation, as well as the same in imported fill material, that would have otherwise been required. This greatly reduced the amount of materials and vehicle movements on site, along with their impact of this on the surrounding neighbourhood during construction.
Open from 27th February 2023, the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ building is an important investment in one of London’s most deprived boroughs, delivering much-needed public resources for local residents, establishing a new civic hub and preserving important architectural heritage.