Art Deco town hall set for university transformation / by Broadway Malyan

Broadway Malyan has been commissioned to breathe new life into an east London town hall as part of Coventry University’s ambitious expansion plans.

The practice will substantially refurbish the stunning grade II listed Civic Centre in Dagenham to create Coventry University Group’s newest campus, CU London, which will cater for up to 3,000 students.

The Art Deco building was originally designed by Architect E. Berry Webber and constructed in 1936 as part of a major civic development programme in London during the inter-war years.

The building is built in Mulberry brick but boasts a Portland stone portico with four slim columns leading into a dramatic three storey entrance hall which includes marble columns, two staircases and art deco ceiling paintings.

The building underwent significant restoration in 2003 to restore much of its original stonework and paint colours and the latest project will protect and enhance many of the building’s key aspects including its dramatic entrance hall and atrium and council chamber.

Work on the project is set to begin this month after it was approved by planners, and Broadway Malyan director Ben Somner, who is leading the project, said the scheme was unique in the higher education sector.

He said: “Coventry University’s vision for this facility is to challenge conventional thinking around the organisation of study so our approach has been to combine the latest in pedagogic thinking while also creating a campus that is outward facing and open to use by the local community.

“A substantial element of the project will be to remodel and refurbish the former council offices in the building’s two wings to create a series of high quality learning spaces which benefit from fantastic views across the site’s landscaped grounds and the adjacent Central Park.

“We will also be creating a new café for both university and community use as well as introducing a new learning resource centre that will incorporate the existing council chamber, which will continue to be used by the local authority for meetings in the future.

“This building is a beautiful example of the architecture of its time and the attention to detail within the three-storey entrance hall particularly is breath-taking and we are excited to have the opportunity to be part of a project that will ensure the long term future of this historically important building.”

Based upon a high-quality and low-cost career focused model of higher education pioneered by the University through its CU Coventry model, CU London will offer lower fees, lower entry requirements and more flexible learning options.

John Dishman, chief executive officer and director of CU Coventry, added: “This is a key project for the Coventry University Group and we are working closely with Barking and Dagenham Council to create a facility that not only protects the future of this fantastic building but supports their growth aspirations.

“It will also enable local people to access a more affordable and flexible further education.”

Further information about CU London can be found at www.coventry.ac.uk/cul