Leading international architectural practice John McAslan + Partners has completed the £7.75 million refurbishment and adaptive reuse of the historic and nationally important Grade II* listed St Albans Town Hall. Commissioned by the St Albans City and District Council, the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust and the University of Hertfordshire, the new St Albans Museum & Art Gallery makes a significant contribution to the rejuvenation of cultural life in the town and the outlying area.
Opened in 1831, St Albans Town Hall and Courtroom is a distinguished example of Neo-Greek architecture. Dating from the earliest days of local government and its assumed responsibilities for law and order, the building occupies a prominent position at the heart of this historic city. With the construction of the new civic centre in 1966 however, the Town Hall and Courtroom became redundant, remaining largely empty and underused for decades.
John McAslan + Partners led the multidisciplinary team which has delivered a conservation-led, sustainable future for this nationally important historic building. Few buildings of this type, particularly the 1912 century courtroom, survive in England and the practice has worked closely with key heritage bodies – Historic England, The City Council’s Conservation Team and The Heritage Lottery Fund. The building’s 19th century stuccoed elevations, Assembly Room and Courtroom have all been painstakingly refurbished and upgraded with integrated modern services. The Assembly Room is now repurposed as a gallery to showcase the rich history of St Albans City, while the Courtroom has been refurbished as a creative educational resource and café seating area. Visitors can also explore the basement below which houses the Victorian cells as well as a new gallery providing an environmentally controlled exhibition space to accommodate touring exhibitions and contemporary art shows. On the ground floor, a visitor information centre, café, and further exhibition and educational spaces have transformed this historic building into a major cultural destination, while new glazed wings at first-floor level allow visitors to circulate through the building and enjoy impressive views of the surrounding townscape and cathedral.
The current exhibition – “Hand Drawn Action Packed” is curated by Hayward Gallery Touring, showcasing the works of ten international artists – Marcel Dzama, Marcel van Eeden, Inci Eviner, Yun-Fei Ji, William Kentridge, Nalini Malani, Otobong Nkanga, Raymond Pettibon, Amy Sillman and Rinus Van de Velde – whose work is inspired by fantasy, social critique, political allegory and autobiography.
Councilor Annie Brewster, Portfolio Holder for Sport, Leisure and Heritage for St Albans City and District Council, comments:
“The St Albans Town Hall and Courthouse was built for public use in 1831. John McAslan + Partners’ stunning transformation of the dilapidated and underused Town Hall and Courthouse has brilliantly created a new 21st century use for the building. We now have a spectacular……etc’. ensures that St Albans now has a spectacular new landmark museum and art gallery, offering three floors of galleries and exhibition space for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
Hannah Lawson, Director at John McAslan + Partners, adds:
“Our transformative scheme for this important historic building has created a new museum and gallery – an exciting cultural destination right in the heart of St Albans.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, adds:
“This ambitious redevelopment project creates a ‘one-stop shop’ – celebrating local heritage and culture – right in the centre of St Albans. This exciting scheme provides a much-needed boost to both the local economy and tourism, providing a wonderful opportunity for people to explore the wider history of this beautiful city. It is also fitting that we thank National Lottery players for helping to realise this important heritage initiative.”