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Eyesore office building becomes cultural magnet


The Cultural Centre City Chamber, is now the place, in which The Newcastle Library, cultural education, Amateur Art and Neighborhood go together, has found a home in the former office of the Tyne Power Plant in the city centre of Newcastle. This complex of buildings on the Quayside consists of several parts, each with its own character. Two buildings are designed by Scot McGregor in the 1970s, and next to it here is a building from 1985. Striking is the front of the building facing Tyne, that may develop into a modern listed building thanks to one of the first rused steel facades in he UK.

The Interior designers of Amos Beech have changed one of the longstanding eyesore office buildings in Newcastle into a cultural magnet 

Edinburgh architect Roy James has met his wife in Newcastle and knows the building from an early age. “It always made a rather gloomy impression. The decision to move the library from the city centre to here, recieved much criticism in the area. “The Library visitors were very much attached to the old location, the former home of Tyneside council. When this historic building was sold by the municipality, a new place had to be found. “The Director of the library said that the regular customers were still skeptical even at the opening of the new location, but that they quickly changed their opinion once they had walked around.” Those positive comments are thanks to the work of Amos beech Commercial Interior Designers, that managed o change the dark amalgam of buildings into light one with logical routing and space planning. The mix of buildings now consists of a colourful entrance building, a robust Tower and a striking new building with a multipurpose hall.

Living room

During the transformation project Amos Beech had dealings with two clients. James: “the Newcastle City Council was as the owner of the building and principal for the architecture, City Chaber was as a tenant the client for the interior. They wanted a building that served as the city’s ‘living room’, a place where you can stay and where it is all about meeting, connecting and inspiring. My colleague Alison Lyal and I based our design on those themes.” However, before they could start with the implementation, the project was  faced with a major setback: “the whole building proved to be full of asbestos, it took a year to remove all of that. Of course, this had major implications for the budget, we had to completely re- do the scope ofworks. In the end, this brought with it the advantage that the building has created a sustainability jump from band F to band A because all the outside window frames and installations had to be renewed. Financially we had less room for manoeuvre thanks due to this operation, which has had it’s consequences for the choices we’ve had to make. 


Walking route

The building was dark and poky, and with the addition of the building in 1985 the older buildings lost their own entrance. We have all opened that up now so people can walk around and through the buildings as if they were one. Amos Beech brought air, light and vision in the complex by voids in different places. James: “the advantage of old buildings is, that there is a lot of equity in it strengthwise, in terms of height and construction you can easily saw clean holes in it. Modern buildings are not strong enough for that. “In the empty spaces you can hang stairs in an Escher-like fashion, which gives a playful spacious feel and makes it a livelily building. “Those stairs are tthe dominant element in the space. They have solid ebalustrades that are lined with wood, which an acoustic effect.” The close balustrades ensures privacy and prevents vertigo. The ground floor connects  to the basement, with a staircase as well as a slide and a standlike seating area. 

The walking route through the building was leading for the interior design. “We have used the street as a metaphor. Along the route there, are about 20 “hotspots” where something special happens. The Cultural Centre City Chamber Newcastle wanted to involve as many target groups as possible, so we have hotspots with target groups ranging from primary school pupils to higher professional and pensioners. ” The hotspots are designed to match the target group, for example, a mini cinema, a tree house and a reading stand. The library collection is always related to the hotspot that is  nearby. The hotspots act as anchors for the many activities. “The City Chamber has good cultural programmers, there is always something going on in the building.”


In terms of organisation, it is based on the principle that the most activities in the building are on the ground floor, and it gets quieter as you get higher. On the ground floor you will find the cultural café, the Multipurpose Hall and public workshops. The library collection is integrated into the basement and on the first and second floors, and also has quiet working areas and concentration spaces. The space on the third floor can be rented out and on the fourth and fifth floors are the offices of The Cultural Centre City Chamber Newcastle. On the ground floor the concrete structure is in sight. For the acoustics ceiling Islands are povided that are hung between the clearly present main supporting structures. The lighting accentuates the clear structure of the building and forms a whole with the outdoor lighting. James: “We are in the entrance building is not so much based on the design rules that apply for a library, but the space itself surrounded by glass. The whole façade is replaced and now has double glazing. During the renovation there were four fantastic roof-lights fitted, allowing you to have daylight in the basement. ” That cellar is a different story: “it consists of two levels, the lower part is built as an atomic bunker, from the cold war era at the time.” Amos Beech left all the original elements in this space in sight, but provided a painted panorama for the space inspired by the skyline of Newcastle. The cellar now houses the children’s department of the library and has a stand, an ‘activity-corner’ and a slide. “The slide is very popular, on a  Saturday they are queing here. The ggallery staircase is widely used to read. ” Thanks to the vide, parents can drink coffee on the ground floor, with view on the children who are below. 

The neutral casco of the building is the perfect backdrop for city room. James: “We have reused much furniture from the old location for the interior, and designed a few large hard interior objects. The ticket kiosk in the cultural café is black, with a wooden sheet that consists of two parts. One of them is always in use, the other may be drawn during special occasions. Furthermore, we have a desk made with bright orange hpl, with which also the toilet blocks and the lif shafts are finished. This is what we have on all floors extended so that it becomes a recognisable element in the space. The building had to be clearly legible, even for people with disabilities.

Light effects

A special addition to the building is the new construction with the multipurpose hall. James: “For the new part initially a glass façade was planned, but we have finally chosen for plastic cladding.” Lighting behind the translucent skin of the room night for a striking game where the logo of city room always clearly visible. “For the special lighting effects on the facade, we have worked with Zumtobel and AC/DC. We have a light strip at the top of the facade. At the bottom of the facade provides a mirror for reflection of light, so it looks like the whole facade is lit. We have this first together with the contractor and the clients tested and the effect is very special. Moreover, it is open source, you can adjust the light effects on the façade to the programming of the Hall. The inner walls of the Hall we have finished with wooden slats on different distance from each other. This makes for good acoustics and looks nice. We also have a great deal of attention to the lighting and AV facilities. A side wall of the room can open, and we have a kind of stand that allows for height difference, so that the room can be used for multiple purposes.  During the whole transformation plan to stay in close contact with the clients, all the wishes from the PVE in the design. James: “We have spoken a lot with City Chamber, for example during walk-in afternoons. City Chamber was around this move also as an organisation in transition. That meant that they were open to our ideas and that we were given a lot of freedom during authoring. Amos Beech gave city room a building that fits like a coat. “We have no spectacular delights removed, but a very useful and a nice building. It was of course also a lot that the clients were so involved, thereby touch your extra inspired. I heard last of the Councillor of culture, that they could see that we have worked with great pleasure. ” Not only architect, clients and users of city room are excited about the building: City room is earlier this year voted best library of he UK.