Gleaming in White: St Albans Museum & Art Gallery
Client: St Albans Museum + Gallery
Architect: John McAslan + Partners
Location: Town Hall, St Peter's St, St Albans AL1 3DH, Vereinigtes Königreich (GB)
From London, St Albans is a half-hour train ride. The history of the city goes back as far as 20 B.C., with the Celtic tribe known as the Catuvellauni, who had settled in the area before the Romans and Anglo-Saxon conquerors came on the scene. In the Middle Ages, a cathedral and abbey were built on the site where the first British martyr, St Alban, was executed. The town was named for him and developed into an important place of pilgrimage.
The St Albans museum, which makes the history of the settlement accessible to visitors, has existed since 1898; in 2018, it was moved into the neoclassical St Albans Town Hall. The former town hall and courthouse building were built in 1829 according to plans designed by architect George Smith. A portico with Ionic columns rises above a podium that is home to the main entrance.
After the refurbishment carried out by John McAslan + Partners, it is not only the building’s façade that gleams in pure white. Inside, the restored Assembly Room has regained its former glory, now offering space for temporary art exhibitions. Bespoke sliding windows with powder-coated aluminum profiles and secondary glazing for thermal insulation were installed. This is meant to alter the visual impression of the windows as little as possible while still improving the windows’ insulative qualities.
Visitors can view the urban context through new, glazed wings on the upper floor. Indeed, the nearby cathedral can be seen as well. The historical courtroom now contains, apart form the entrance, a café and space for temporary art exhibitions. The Victorian cells in the cellar have also been restored and opened to the public.