A new life for St Mary’s Mission Hall

Our projects often involve the careful insertion of new structures into existing spaces, with the main aim being an increase in accommodation. Our project proposals for St Mary’s Mission Hall were no different, in terms of aim but were wholly different in terms of execution. This post is intended to show how architects, such as us, can suggest often unthought of approaches to secure project success.

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The hall was constructed by The Railway Mission at a time when the population of Hastings was soaring and The Railway Mission felt there was an urgent need to accommodate the religious beliefs of the railway workers and their families. The hall was officially opened on April 28th 1892.

As happened to many buildings in Hastings, the hall ceased to be used for its original purpose and after a series of transitory uses, the hall was left empty until our client appointed us to obtain planning permission for a new use, that of student accommodation.

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A quick study of the hall showed the potential, but also a great challenge- how to insert the required number of rooms to make the project viable. The existing hammer post trusses supporting the roof were obscured by a modern ceiling but we could tell that once removed, the trusses could become an exciting feature in the triple height space. A measured survey showed that we could insert accommodation to achieve much of the rooms required but we needed to find space for an additional two rooms to make the project viable.

We suggested that an element could span across the main space, to define the kitchen and dining area underneath and provide a bedroom and ensuite over and not interfere with the dramatic north-facing window.

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Our proposals have been given planning approval and we now face fresh challenges in terms of delivery of the project on site but the project is a good example of how creative thinking can meet a brief and secure a viable future for a key building.

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