The Farrell Centre

SPACE Architects & Elliott Architects worked collaboratively with Newcastle University to transform the former Claremont Buildings, a historic Grade II listed building in the heart of Newcastle that had laid vacant for several years and fallen into a state of disrepair.

Although a listed building, significantly more adaptions had been made within the 1905 extension, and fewer original features remained, including the original facades on the ground floor which had been replaced with un-sympathetic 1970s additions. As a principle, we looked to utilise this part of the building as the new contemporary entrance, which is mirrored to the east, creating a connection through the building and helping to further animate the Centre.

To the south-west of the Centre, a new pedestrian forecourt has been created to allow people to gather whilst active frontages to the building help to draw people in, making it appealing and accessible.

Once inside, a new sunken seating space was created, (by opening-up a section of the floor into the basement), encouraging debate and discussion in the heart of the building in a prominent and publicly visible location.

A new, brightly coloured feature accommodation staircase bisects the building, drawing visitors towards the gallery spaces and Urban Rooms to the upper levels reinforcing the key concepts of being welcoming, open and accessible to all. The areas within the building are layered, moving from public to private on the upper floors with the stair demonstrating how historic buildings can be creatively repurposed with a balance of contemporary intervention and sympathetic restoration.

A key part of the design interior involved exposing and restoring the original brickwork and fireplaces which are set against the playful, stylised geometric motif of the staircase; a nod to the Post-Modern era.

Ensuring the building was accessible at all levels, a new lift was installed within the existing lightwell in the centre of the footprint. Glass landing doors were specified, so that borrowed light was maintained and also allows the original glazed brickwork within the shaft to be displayed.

Our proposal seeked to implement Farrell’s philosophy by establishing an exemplar ‘urban room’; a welcoming, shared facility to serve the region and its communities, encouraging engagement and debate around our built environment. The design retains and creatively adapts the listed building, demonstrating how buildings need to evolve and regenerate, in order to stay relevant.

Owen Hopkins, Director of the Farrell Centre had this to say,“Chris from SPACE and Ben from Elliott Architects made a great team. From the beginning, they understood what we wanted to achieve with the project and were always willing to engage in creative dialogue about everything from the planning and arrangement of rooms to material and colour choices. That we have got such a distinctive building encapsulating the ethos of the centre at the end of the process is testament to their vision, ingenuity and patience.”

**Credits for the Urban Rooms installations are as follows:
3D design – CAN
Design and Artwork – Altogether
Tyneside map commission – Foundation Press
Printer – Statex and Chromazone
Suppliers – Stormboard, Scaffold Direct

And for the exhibition galleries:
Gallery 3:
Installation shot of ‘Luxurious Thrift’ by Office S&M, part of the exhibition More with Less: Reimagining Architecture for a Changing World (22 April – 10 September 2023), Farrell Centre, Newcastle
Gallery 2
Installation shot of ‘Liberate/Insulate’ by Dress for the Weather, part of the exhibition More with Less: Reimagining Architecture for a Changing World (22 April – 10 September 2023), Farrell Centre, Newcastle

Photography Courtesy of ©Kristen McCluskie