Whitby Street Studios wins RIBA's North East Building of the Year Award 2021.
Group Ginger have repurposed the wonderful northern renaissance style Grade II listed Post Office in the centre of Hartlepool. The original Post Office has been treated with respect, but also rejuvenated with a sympathetic restoration and extension which adds a sense of playfulness, externally signalling a new life for the building, and providing a new focus for the surrounding conservation area and town.
Transformed into The Bis, it provides accommodation for businesses in the creative sector. The building is one of a series of planned developments by the local council, with the intention of retaining and nurturing local talent, building on the strength and reputation of the nearby Northern School of Art. The Bis, Whitby Street Studios is proving to be a great success and it is easy to see why.
Externally the new "wing" is bold in material choice and colour, but also simple and restrained in its detailing. The gold metal panels provide a sympathetic counterpoint to the extravagant detailing and richness of the brick and stone of the Old Post Office. The composition of volumes between old and new is well judged and the project has retained the heritage asset as the focus of the scheme.
The building appeals to occupiers and visitors alike. Internally there is a rawness that reveals and celebrates the historic fabric of the building. From the entrance, you are drawn to the central communal covered space, where views into the adjacent units embody the feeling of community and openness – the creative process is on view here and the potential for collaboration is clear.
Colour is central to the project and is handled with expert precision; there could have been a danger of sensory overload with colour, texture, exposed services and cellular office spaces, but the balance has been tuned to create a series of interconnected spaces which seem to perfectly reflect the creativity of the occupants.
A worthy winner, The Bis, Whitby Street Studios is building a community of creative enterprises that will no doubt be of great economic and cultural benefit to the town. The project is a great credit to Hartlepool Borough Council who were clearly an engaged and active client. 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.