Chester-le-Street Civic Centre marks a departure from the formal architectural traditions of Town Hall and Civic Architecture. Presenting to the street, a slick, aluminium clad facade, almost the only indication of its civic function are the flags outside.
The main objective was to create a publicly accessible, welcoming centre for the 52,000 strong population of Chester-le-Street. This is directly translated into the plan. A central mall running the length of the building continues the line of the existing footpath from the town centre, with enquiry desks and access to the various council departments located along its length. At the centre, the plan is crossed by a large amenity zone, including a public restaurant, bar and waiting area, stretched out over a bed of Astroturf.
The exposed steel structure and visible service ducts suggest a building that has more in common with the industrial buildings of the region than its Civic predecessors. The use of primary colours to animate the ‘bowels’ of the building was common to the hi-tech architectural movement within which this building is situated; famously used by Lord Rogers and Renzo Piano on the Pompidou Centre in Paris (completed 1977). The studded rubber flooring, Astroturf and planted vegetation are combined to create a playful, functional architectural style, befitting of the egalitarian objectives of the council.
In late 2013, the civic centre was vacated leaving the future of the building unknown.
All image courtesy of Faulkner Brown Architects.