Landmark Neo-Palladian Hall transformed into St Albans Museum + Gallery

Once thought ‘not fit for purpose’ the former St Albans Town Hall is now a vibrant cultural hub. The elegant venue has recently been extended and repurposed to designs by John McAslan and Partners as a premier centre for arts and culture at the heart of one of Britain’s most historic cities

Built in 1830 and designed by George Smith, the Grade II* Listed St Albans former Town Hall is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks described in Pevsner’s Buildings of England as a “giant portico of four fluted Ionic columns, placed on a plinth of full ground floor height with the main entrances between robust Tuscan pillars”.

Selectaglaze, a specialist designer of Secondary Glazing systems that has operated in St Albans for more than 50 years, was contacted by the consultants to deliberate ways of improving environmental controls.

The giant tripartite single glazed windows in the impressive 1st floor Assembly Room offered awfully poor thermal insulation. Other windows required significantly improved security to meet Arts Council guidelines for inclusion in the Government Indemnity Insurance scheme. This meant that units which had been tested and met LPS1175 standards had to be included. The design had to meet exacting conservation requirements and working together with contractor Willmott Dixon Construction a sample window was first produced for the Assembly Room. This was a special 3-part vertical sliding unit measuring 4.3m (h) x 1.7m (w) designed to be sympathetic to the original window design. It was fabricated with powder painted aluminium sections to match existing paintwork and 6.8mm low emissivity laminated glass. The finished installation was inspected and permitted allowing the remaining windows to be treated.

The room environment is now significantly improved. Low emissivity glass cuts heat loss by more than 60%, frame seals eliminate draughts and the laminated glass not only removes 99% of UV light, which can cause fade to fabrics and paintings, but also provides additional safety. Windows in other areas were treated with a certified security range using specialist glass.

The new St Albans Museum + Gallery is free to visit and displays over 2,000 years of heritage with permanent displays telling the story of St Albans from the pre-Roman era through to modern times and will also host changing exhibitions and events. A number of areas have been restored including the courtroom and prison cells and the main entrance houses a delightful café which will also cater for special events at the museum.

This project, financed in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has transformed an underused building which had fallen into disrepair and repurposed it into a vibrant cultural centre for the City.

Established in 1966 and granted a Royal Warrant in 2004, Selectaglaze is the leading specialist in the design, manufacture and installation of secondary glazing, working on all buildings of all types from Listed to traditional and even new build. The Company’s wide range of products are fully tested and certified and produced to exacting quality standards. A free technical advisory service is offered and RIBA approved CPDs are available to architects and designers.

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