On a quiet residential street in Cambridge Heath in the East End of London sits the borough’s original town hall. Built in 1910, the Edwardian manor was constructed to reflect the time’s flourishing wealth. In 1937, an expansion to the building was commissioned. With rather tactless alterations to its unique stateliness, the house eventually fell out of use in 1993. Enter Singaporean hotelier Loh Lik Peng.
After careful consultation and planning, in 2007 Peng commissioned an extensive restoration to the Grade II-registered building to then reopen as Town Hall Hotel & Apartments. It was no small feat; Michel da Costa Gonçalves and Nathalie Rozencwajg of Rare Architects were tasked not only with designing a contemporary hotel to sit within the existing structure, but also with considerably restoring the edifice to its former splendor and expand once more.
Because the structure was registered as an at-risk building and of historical interest, before a single hammer could be lifted, the project required special permission from a preservation organization. After careful review of the guiding concept and ensured use of traditional techniques for the redevelopment, the undertaking was granted approval. Three years after its purchase by Peng, inspired by the town hall archives of its earliest design elements and realized by deft craftsman, the venture was completed.
Entering Town Hall today, guests are greeted by polished marble floors, a grand staircase, and lustrous brass grilles. Comforts of a modern stead await inside each of the 98 individually designed and spacious rooms, which are outfitted with, among other furnishings, Viabizzuno light fixtures specially made for the project.
Perhaps the best glimpse of the structure’s past life is within the Council Chamber. Inside the room, with its padded wooden pews of green leather surrounding a long austere bench, images of long-ago municipal proceedings are evoked. Now, equipped with a screen and projector, the Council Chamber is used for lectures, screenings, and weddings. Next door in the Ante-Chamber, the rich mahogany tones and plush leather seating feels much like the dapper rooms of a proper British gentleman’s club.
While it endured a long and at times difficult past, today Town Hall Hotel & Apartments stands as proudly and with as much authority as it did when its office was first in session.
Town Hall Hotel & Apartments, Patriot Square, London, E2 9NF, United Kingdom, +44 20 7871 0460.