Not for self but for all

Completed in 1937, Camden Town Hall is a grand Neoclassical building characterised by Corinthian columns, Portland stone, symmetry, orderliness and hefty presence. It was built as a statement of civic pride. It still is.

Camden Council commissioned a refurbishment and retrofit to bring energy performance up to scratch and to repurpose parts of the building.

It retains its civic purpose as the centre of local government through the Council Chamber and Committee Rooms. The wedding and civil partnership suites retain its special place in the lives of local people. There are now business and tenanted office spaces. There is also a privately operated events and hospitality space.

Having worked with Camden Council on the award winning 5 St Pancras Square, we were delighted to work on nearby Camden Town Hall. 

Our task was to achieve clarity of navigation for the various building users while staying sympathetic to the wonderful heritage refurbishment delivered by Purcell

The building has several entrances that broadly align with the different uses. We analysed visitor flow to understand how we could meet their ambition of effective wayfinding achieved with minimal signage elements.

We took our design cue from the windows. Although Neoclassical in the overall architecture, the fenestration nods in the direction of Modernism. The window frames are black painted, slender rectangles made of steel. It’s an approach associated with early 20th Century Art Deco. 

This blurring of influences took us to the linear abstract work of Mondrian painted in the same period. The concept provided a beautiful graphic grid for floor directories and directional information at movement thresholds. Part of the grid is left empty allowing the substrate to show through – Carrara marble on the ground floor; wood panelling on the second floor. It stands out yet looks completely at home in the space.

Complementing the directional framework are what we called ‘Flourishes.’ These are sign written and stone carved to identify the Wedding Lobby and the Council Chamber destinations and also to refurbish existing benefactor and accreditation boards. The approach is elegant, grand, restrained and suits the building perfectly.