Carved out of five historic military buildings, Woolwich Works is a new cultural destination in London located in the royal Arsenal. The predominantly unused Grade II and II* listed buildings have been converted to a 16,500-square-metre creative hub for multiple cultural occupiers, led by The Royal Borough of Greenwich. The new Woolwich Works now includes a 450-seat theatre, a music venue, a museum and a variety of rehearsal studios, as well as providing a base for a number of internationally acclaimed theatre and dance companies including Punchdrunk.
Working closely with the client throughout the design process, the project team helped identify the types of uses and tenants that would work well with the existing buildings, rather than undertaking significant works to the buildings to accommodate the requirements of less naturally aligned uses. This considered approach was complemented across all design disciplines.
The centrepiece of the project is “Building 41”, which comprises an impressive performance space with capacity for 1200 seated or 1800 standing, an external courtyard and three smaller wings accommodating five studios, which can also be used for performance and rehearsal space creating flexibility for the venue. A café, bar and a further river-facing events space can be hired by community groups and the public, meaning Woolwich Works is truly flexible in how it can be used and the performances it can host.
Collaborating with conservation architect Consarc, our approach to the historic buildings was primarily light touch. The munitions factories have been stripped back and opened up to reveal roof trusses and brickwork that have been sensitively repaired in order to celebrate the history of the buildings, rather than conceal it under new finishes.
The approach to the internal environment was addressed in a similar fashion – working with BuroHappold, the design was developed to temper the environment of these ‘found’ spaces – doing what was necessary to provide a suitable internal condition but not striving to meet onerous design criteria.