"Step back, soak it up and wander. Peruse. Absorb. Slow down and read the building. This allows you to react to the space. The designs often grow organically as a result of what you have in front of you. For me it is crucial to allow the existing to shine through and for the proposals to sit within and complement."

Renovating large, historic buildings can be a sensitive business. The care and detail lavished over a hundred years ago on The Old Shire Hall in Durham is hard to match. Hub's expertise in working on renovation projects made them the natural choice when plans were drawn up to transform this iconic building into a luxury hotel. The £7.5m project kicked off last year and Hub's designs will see the Hall reinvigorated for the next hundred years.

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Built in 1896, The Old Shire Hall is an imposing presence in Durham

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The historic fabric of the building will be backdrop to a contemporary luxury hotel

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The Old Shire Hall is pretty prestigious building in the north east that is steeped in history. Bringing it up to date and turning it into a hotel whilst retaining the fabric of its character must have been a daunting task. How do you go about it?

Firstly we were very lucky to have a building with so much of its original fabric intact. This is very unusual for me to witness and it saves a huge amount of research time and allows us to read the building as it was originally built so much easier. This in turn allows us to respond to the client brief and the needs of the historic fabric of the building so we don't attempt to make a change which would damage the historic integrity or physicality of the building.

What was Hub Architecture's role in the project?

We were designer and agent for an approved full planning submission and approved listed building consent application.

Were there any parts of the project that you particularly enjoyed and are proud of?

The meeting chamber restaurant and bar area must be up there with the best 19th Century internal spaces in Durham.

There must be a lot of constraints and regulations that come with working on a restoration project of a building of this nature. How do approach this? Do you have a lot of experience in this area?

I've dealt with listed buildings since the late 80’s. Its in my blood now. The sense of normality in the work that I am asked to carry out is not bewildering, but sometimes the buildings can be initially! The way to do it is to step back, soak it up and wander. Peruse. Absorb. Slow down and read the building. This allows you to react to the space. The designs often grow organically as a result of what you have in front of you. For me it is crucial to allow the existing to shine through and for the proposals to sit within and complement. The changes must not overpower.

When it opens, what are your aspirations for the Hall and the people that it will serve?

To enjoy what is for me, one of the most well preserved, despite being so well used, historical buildings on the East side of the river.


Project Name: The Old Shire Hall

Hub roles: Architectural design, planning submissions


Interested in this project? Get in touch to find out more or discuss your own big idea.

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