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Using cultural capital to kickstart an urban renaissance

Hartlepool post office

The BIS, Hartlepool

This deft reinvention of the Grade II-listed former Hartlepool post office creates a new chapter for the building as a centre of gravity for the town’s creative industries. The council-run 28 unit centre for business start-ups offers a range of studio, office and workshop spaces with flexible tenancy arrangements to help new business enterprises.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project significantly contributes to the wider regeneration ambitions for Hartlepool, with occupiers of The BIS and the critical mass of the nearby Northern School of Art and its students being used as the catalyst for the town’s urban regeneration.

Group Ginger took their signature light touch approach to the building adaptation, retaining as much of the existing structure as possible and intervening only where necessary to make the building work seamlessly. This approach helps preserve a raw freshness that architecture typically edits out, fittingly for the creativity of the occupants: jewellery makers, photographers, filmmakers, web designers, and clothing designers.


“The listed building has been revitalised on an extremely challenging budget, and the whole project has been developed with an unpretentious sensitivity and creativity which has resulted in an overwhelming sense of positivity for the future.” - RIBA awards jury

Externally, the restrained detailing of the gold metal façade on the new extension provides a playful but sympathetic counterpoint to the richness of the brick and stone of the Old Post Office and wider conservation area. The carefully balanced composition ensures the heritage building still reads as the focus of the ensemble, whilst signalling a new life for the building.

Internally, the new wing creates a central common space offering opportunity for social encounter. Views into the adjacent units embody the feeling of community and activation – the creative process is on display and the potential for collaboration is clear. The central space also doubles as an efficient circulation device, seamlessly linking the new and old buildings, unifying a series of functional and lettable spaces for a variety of tenants. Careful placement of lift access resolves complex level changes, enabling the building to be fully accessible to the diverse community using the space.




Hartlepool Borough Council & The Northern School of Art

Structural Engineers

Buro Happold


Completed 2019

Group Ginger adopted a passive design approach with low embodied carbon credentials across the scheme, and reuse of as much of the existing materials as possible. The raw design of the internal finish allowed costs, as well as the carbon footprint, to be kept to a minimum. The services strategy is deliberately low energy, with natural ventilation minimising interventions in the fabric of the historic building as well as helping to reduce the overall carbon emissions.

Group Gingers philosophy has always been to use an economy of means in order to do the maximum. The £4m budget was particularly tight, and Group Ginger took a pragmatic approach, with repair and reuse of heritage features as opposed to a more preservation focused costly restoration and replacement.

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