The new Centre acts as a community hub and a haven for life-long learning in this distinctive re-invented building: the regeneration project both reflects and embraces Mary Ward’s culture and the needs of current and future occupants.
‘People should have the pleasure of whistling an aria whilst they are mending their own shoes.’ - Mary Augusta Ward
The Mary Ward Adult Education Centre is an Institute of Adult Learning - one of only ten in the UK - with up to 5,500 students passing through its doors a year. Mary Ward recognised the need for a new, larger home so they could continue to operate successfully with a student community of this size: the search for a solution began.
Queensway House in Stratford, a derelict 1970s three storey concrete framed building, was identified as having the potential to meet Mary Ward’s vision to consolidate both its sites and services into a single headquarters. The Stratford High Street location would also enable Mary Ward to have a far-reaching regeneration impact.
Mary Ward turned to SD Structures to deliver a full carbon assessment of the site, the structure and its capacities. These investigative works revealed that a full refurbishment and extension of the building was indeed possible and offered a 40% carbon reduction compared to the proposed demolition and rebuild. Thanks to our track record in designing and delivering retro-first projects, AWW was chosen as the architect on the team to deliver the reinvention of the existing Queensway House to represent the values and ethos that the Mary Ward Centre has built over its 128-year history.
Working with existing buildings is always challenging but rewarding, and a good contractor is fundamental to a successful outcome. Curo Construction were a key partner in this regard and continually overcame challenging constraints and unknowns to help deliver a high-quality end result.
Mary Ward also wanted to harness our collaborative experience in stakeholder engagement. AWW produced a series of workshops with the client and end users to develop the building programme and plans, defining the scope and scale of services. These workshops continued throughout the project, ensuring building users and staff felt engaged in the process and had a sense of ownership throughout.
Celebrating the retro-first approach, the completed Mary Ward Centre exposes the concrete frame of the original three storey office building, wrapping the new structure and programme around it. The existing concrete is left raw, ensuring the site’s history is encoded in the visual identity.
The Centre caters to a diverse mix of users, while also containing a varied programme. To ensure legibility, a series of interventions cut through the spaces, finished in a bold, yellow metal. These interventions articulate ingress points and key routes through the building, ensuring it is simple to navigate. The monochromatic colour scheme also acts as a visual identifier on the building approaches.