Fairfield Halls FAQ
What is the history of the Fairfield Halls?
- Originally opened in 1962, the Fairfield Halls were at the centre of cultural life in Croydon for over 50 years and have hosted icons of popular and classical music including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie & Kraftwerk
- The original architect was David Beaty-Pownall of Robert Atkinson & Partners who also designed the adjacent Croydon College and Magistrate’s Court buildings
- Inspired by The Royal Festival Hall but with multiple venues and a better acoustic performance. Both projects shared the same acoustic engineer – Hope Bagenall
- One of several similar British Buildings of the period inspired by Scandinavian modernism
- An example of the desire to put culture at the centre of Civic Life in Croydon and as such a counterpoint the predominantly commercial 1960s’ development of the town
What does the Fairfield Halls complex consist of?
- The building forms the centrepiece of an 8ha cultural masterplan for the Fair Field site including new homes and extensive new public realm
- The refurbishment of the Halls was a nationally significant arts project and a major project for Croydon and the adjacent areas of South London and the South East, and forms part of a broader Croydon programme of improvements and new homes delivered by Brick By Brick
What were the overall aims and principles of the refurbishment project?
The brief, agreed between Brick By Brick and Croydon Council, was to take a heritage-led approach with wholesale improvements to the appearance, operation and commercial viability of the halls. This included:
- Improved food and beverage and commercial offer
- New rehearsal and performance venues
- Sensitively restored spaces
- Improved flexibility in use
- Increased capacity
- Improved environmental control and energy use
- New mechanical and electrical services including, new lighting, air conditioning, fire alarm & detection
- New suspended ceilings to all front of house and acoustically sensitive areas
- New energy centre serving halls and future homes development
- New studio and café facing College Green
- New back of house facilities
- Much improved accessibility
What were the specific objectives of the refurbishment project?
The specific objectives of the project were to:
- Enhance the existing concert hall to retain its renowned acoustic performance, high-quality front staging and sightlines with improved capacity for amplified music performance.
- Resolve all Mechanical & Electrical (M&E), Health & Safety (H&S) and accessibility issues within the main core of the building to bring it up to modern standards.
- Introduce new high quality, high profile food and drink offers into the building to improve commerciality and flexibility.
- Redesign the servicing and “get–in” arrangements to the rear of the building to make them fit for purpose for modern productions.
- Enable flexibility in the future use of the building and performance spaces.
- Sympathetic redesign of the Arnhem Gallery and Ashcroft Theatre.
- Enable better integration with the wider College Green and the surrounding area to give improved relationship of the building to the surroundings, focusing on the forecourt to the west, College Green to the north and Barclay Road to the east.
- Introduce outward facing commercial elements to enable the building to generate further income.
- Improve opportunities for partnerships, hires, residencies in the building.
- Enhance the facilities to provide a high-quality conferencing facility.
What was the summary scope of works undertaken as part of the refurbishment project?
- North – Cleaned and renovated façades to improve durability, appearance and environmental performance. Failed precast cladding to Arnhem and Concert Hall elevations completely replaced to improve thermal performance and integrity while retaining original appearance and acoustic benefits.
- Cloister – New build addition with glazed frontage to college green, café and community studio, improved car park access, new signage.
- West – existing cladding and glazing cleaned and refurbished, restored elegance, transparency and grandeur to entrance, new lighting, better visibility to foyer, new signage, new forecourt paving and drainage.
- South – failed precast cladding to Concert Hall replaced, refurbishment to existing facades, re-build Arnhem venue from ground up with additional roof terrace and multi-purpose venue at Level 02, backlit glazing to high level extension creates a glowing beacon signalling the transformed spaces within. New Barclay Rd landscaping works.
- East – Improved get-in and service yard, refurbishment to cladding and glazing.
- New roof coverings to all flat roof areas.
- New gutters and downpipes to Concert Hall roof.
- New mansafe systems, access routes and guarding to provide safe maintenance access to roof areas.
- New lightning protection throughout.
Front of House & Foyer
- Restoring grandeur and function of 1962 foyer.
- New frameless glass entrance doors and glazed screens.
- Reinstate original features, columns, new bespoke chandeliers and lighting to match originals.
- New bar and cafe facilities including hot food prep area.
- Full redecoration.
- New floor finishes.
- New services throughout, including heating, ventilation, fire detection and alarm systems.
- New and refurbished timber, brass and glazed balustrading and handrails.
- New accessible lift stops at upper foyer for both new front of house lifts.
- Flexibility for performance and other uses.
- New sun lounge bar for reception and drinks.
- New public Changing Places facility to provide accessible changing area for central Croydon.
- New toilets throughout including improved accessible toilet provisions.
- New signage and wayfinding.
- New loose furniture and indoor planting.
- Additional small power.
- New accessible entrance from car park.
- Sensitive restoration and alterations to improve flexibility and operation.
- New acoustic banners to improve performance for amplified music.
- New mechanical ventilation system providing heating and cooling to current standards.
- New house lighting and fully refurbished, restored and re-lamped existing chandeliers.
- Careful preservation of celebrated acoustic for classical and orchestral music.
- Improved canopy operation and flying capacity.
- New performance lighting, AV and stage equipment infrastructure.
- New floor finishes throughout auditorium.
- Refurbishment of concert hall platform flooring.
- Refurbishment and additional safety measures provide to stage lifts.
- Selective replacement and refurbishment of all seats.
- Provision of wheelchair accessible viewing boxes.
- Complete redecoration throughout.
- Timber refurbishment throughout.
- New external tiled floor finish to terrace.
- Capacity increased from 750 to 803 seats.
- Improved environmental conditions throughout.
- Improved back of house facilities.
- Existing seating restored, additional capacity added, seating & lobby layout alterations.
- New floor finishes to existing repaired screed floor to auditorium.
- New ceiling to auditorium following removal due to extensive presence of asbestos.
- New plasterboard linings to walls due to asbestos and redecoration to auditorium.
- New heating, ventilation, lighting, AV & performance lighting systems.
- New flytower roof and smoke ventilation system.
- New fire safety curtain and drencher systems.
- New fire detection and fire alarm system.
- Rebuilt to double area and provide a naturally lit, multi-use space for rehearsals and performances.
- New stone rainscreen cladding to re-create original appearance and massing with improved thermal performance.
- New UV panels to help achieve Breeam ‘Excellent’ rating.
- Back-lit glazed cladding to extended upper levels creates a glowing beacon, signalling the transformation of the halls.
- A new level of studio and roof terrace.
- Upgraded bars and other function rooms.
- Improved commercial viability for hire and community use.
- New semi sprung timber flooring to both venues.
- New heating cooling and ventilation services with flexible performance & lighting grids.
- New plant enclosure, new plant deck and PV panels, new roof coverings and cappings.
- Achieve Breeam ‘Excellent’ rating for new works.
- New build building with structural and triple glazed curtain wall façade.
- Large glazed pivot door and external terrace to west elevation.
- Automatic glazed entrance doors.
- Glazed internal doors.
- Tiled and semi-sprung timber flooring.
- Underfloor heating to all areas.
- New lift and naturally lit staircase to provide improved access to basement and car park.
- New WCs, to provide new café and community studios.
- New café with internal and external dining areas.
- New community studio, performance, dance and rehearsal space.
- Breeam ‘Excellent’ rating.
Back of House
- New kitchens and service lift.
- Improved get-in, service yard and loading dock areas.
- New mechanical and electrical services.
- New sprinklers to basement, lower ground and Ashcroft Theatre.
- New accessible artist’s entrance and platform lifts.
- New accessible dressing rooms.
- New WCs, showers, dressing and changing facilities.
- New services, boilers, pumps, combined heat and power plant, to serve Halls and surrounding development
- New gatic access hatch, fire rated roller shutter, fire rated doors, mezzanine and transformer room enclosure
Who were the team that worked on the Fairfield Halls project?
- Client: Brick By Brick
- Operator: BH Live
- Architect: MICA Architects
- Theatre Consultants: Sound Space Vision
- Landscape architect: MICA with Gross Max as subconsultant
- Planning consultant: Carter Jonas
- Structural engineer: AKS Ward
- M&E consultant: Max Fordham
- Principal Designer: MICA
- CDM adviser: Goddard Consulting
- Lighting consultant: Max Fordham
- Multi-disciplinary design services: Mott MacDonald
- Main contractor: Vinci (general demolition for strip-out works)
- Access Consultant: David Bonnett Associates
- Fire Engineering: Trenton Fire
- Acoustics: Max Fordham
- Façade Engineers: Interface Façade Engineers
- Transport: Steer
- BREEAM: Max Fordham
How was the refurbishment of Fairfield Halls funded?
The wider Fairfield project received a £11.48m contribution from the Coast to Capital LEP, as well as a contribution from the Mayor of London’s Creative Enterprise Zones scheme. The remainder of the costs of the extensive refurbishment and transformation of Fairfield Halls were originally intended to be funded by the development value from the surrounding council-owned land, where Brick By Brick (BBB) was bringing forward a mixed-use scheme, creating new homes and flexible office, retail and leisure space.
BBB worked with MICA Architects and Common Ground Architecture to design this scheme, and was successful in gaining planning consent for a major mixed-use development there comprising 421 homes alongside flexible office, retail and leisure space.
However, in light of the wider financial context, the council has decided not to proceed with this element of the project (which would have required significant development finance) and will instead sell the land separately. This means that the costs of the Fairfield project to date now need to be met by the council rather than BBB. A number of detailed reports have recently been considered by the council’s Cabinet committee relating to this issue.
(Updated June 2021)
What is the Coast to Capital LEP?
One of 38 across the UK – the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has various funding, grant and loan opportunities available to private and public sector organisations to support business growth in Croydon, East Surrey, Gatwick Diamond, Brighton & Hove, Lewes and West Sussex. The funding comes from our allocation from the Government’s Growth Deal and the European Structural & Investment Fund.
What is the Mayor of London’s Creative Enterprise Zones scheme?
Announced in December 2018, the Mayor’s Creative Enterprise Zones are a new initiative to designate specific areas of London where artists and creative businesses can find permanent affordable space to work, are supported to start-up and grow, and where local people can be helped to learn creative sector skills and find new jobs. Enterprises and successful boroughs have been awarded a share of more than £11m, this includes more than £4m from the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund.
What was the total cost of the Fairfield Halls project?
The current estimated cost of the Halls refurbishment works is £42.6m, with final accounts pending. The root and branch refurbishment of the Halls has provided a new civic and cultural centre for the people of Croydon, improving accessibility, performance and efficiency, and ensuring a lasting legacy building for future generations.
In summary, what was achieved overall from the refurbishment project?
- Value for money – judicious scoping of the work from a larger, longer term masterplan has delivered maximum impact while protecting long–term aspirations.
- Developing the brief – team successfully developed detailed briefs and proposals which were tested with Theatres Trust and other key stakeholders.
- Heritage architectural quality retained and respected
- Acoustic performance retained and secured
- Fire safety improved
- Asbestos removed
- Fit out and handover planning – team worked seamlessly with the new operator to enable design integration of fit out and handover programming.
- Finding space and improving commercial offer – deft, contemporary additions of a linear glass building at ground level opening the building out on to the new urban square
- Making the most of the space – eg an underused canteen for performers is transformed into studio venue
- More seats, more tickets – improved the sightlines and the capacity by 59 seats
- Pragmatic Approach to Locally Listed Building – the very large building had suffered from some lower grade 1960s construction techniques and some remedial works to varying degrees of success. The prioritised survey and investigation to mitigate risks wherever possible in order to progress to and through contract. The scope of works required heritage expertise in the existing construction as well as remedial and replacement solutions. A balanced approach to conservation and replacement to meet both budget constraints and planning expectation had to be negotiated and fully justified.
- Access for all –doors and ironmongery replaced or refurbished. New public lifts making all areas fully accessible for the first time. New audio assistance technologies and wayfinding.
- Security and life safety – specification and equipment replaced throughout
- Robust – practical detailing spreading funding judiciously throughout.
- Servicing – improvement to access for performances back–stage and in the service yard creating operational savings.
- Energy Centre – as well as full replacement of MEP systems a new energy centre will maximise efficiencies by serving surrounding development.
What awards and press coverage has the Fairfield Halls refurbishment received?
The refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls was celebrated with several awards:
Civic Trust Awards – Fairfield Halls, Highly Commended
London RIBA Regional Shortlist – Fairfield Halls, Result pending
Building Design, (MICA) Refurbishment Architect of the Year – Fairfield Halls
New London Architecture Awards 2020, Conserving – Fairfield Halls, Highly Commended
New London Architecture Awards 2020, Experiencing Culture – Fairfield Halls, Shortlisted
The project has also been covered extensively in the media: