A singular mixed-use leisure complex by BDP breathes new life into Oldham Town hall


Built in phases from 1841, Oldham Town Hall in Greater Manchester was designed to accommodate civic and administrative functions as well as police and court facilities. Vacated by its main occupier more than 30 years ago, the grade-two-listed building had since fallen into disrepair. BDP’s £37m redevelopment scheme includes a multiplex cinema, restaurants and a new landscaped pedestrian square. All surviving significant heritage elements have been retained and repaired, including three neoclassical stone elevations and several ornate interiors.

Central to the project is the ‘lightbox’, a three-storey structure measuring 88 metres long by 11.5 metres high that provides an active frontage to the west, facing the public square. Internally, the extension resolves key level issues via a concourse, bridges and walkways. The light- box sits atop a plinth constructed from locally-sourced sandstone rainscreen cladding and louvre panels. Above, full-hight translucent and clear glass panels fill the concourse with daylight. At night, the glass facade is lit from within using narrow-beam LED luminaires, forming a glowing symbol of the building’s re-birth.

The structural interventions relating to the the original building perform two distinct tasks. First, stabilising and strengthening the masonry shell.  Second, supporting a series of independently isolated structures that enclose each of the auditoria within the original walls. The lightbox comprises a linear structural steel frame with piled foundations. Exposed within the cinema concourse, the frame has been detailed to create a visually-clean aesthetic.

The lighting strategy was to illuminate key elements and surfaces in a controlled manner, rather than ‘blanket’ washing the whole building, says the architect. Key elements within the public realm, such as planters, artwork, seating and balustrades, are lit from directional masts or from concealed locations within the landscape. The building itself is illuminated to highlight its presence at the heart of the town, with warm tones reserved for the original brick and stone facades, and cool colour temperatures employed on the lightbox. A similar tonal contrast is used internally as a means of creating a dialogue between the original features and new interventions.


The design team worked closely to optimise service routes and equipment positioning within the constraints of the listed building. All mechanical equipment is located on the roof  for ease of access and maintenance. The auditoria are served by a mixture of top-down and displacement ventilation to suit the specific constraints of each space. The restored plasterwork within the courtroom auditorium, for example, demanded a displacement ventilation approach utilising the floor beneath the terrace. Elsewhere, a restored fireplace provides supply air for the coffee shop with extracts above the decorative joinery.

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Structural engineer
Kier Services
Services engineer
Foreman Roberts
Quantity surveyor
MACE Cost Consultancy

Curtain walling 
Schueco, Glassolutions
Rainscreen cladding
British Gypsum