The Hub, Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery Trust, London

The Hub’s building-within-a-building design and contemporary spin on many of original Pitzhanger Manor architect, John Soane’s, iconoclastic Georgian architectural features provides a sensitively constructed and functional space for volunteers and the local community. A JCT Minor Works Building Contract was the form of choice.

The Hub is a modest name for a building that nonetheless lives up to its meaning – a centre of activity – with an elegantly constructed design that has the utmost respect for its surroundings. The building was commissioned by the Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery Trust as a space for its volunteers for relaxation and to take part in training and development sessions. It is also for use as an activity space for the local community.

The Hub sits within the walls of Pitzhanger Manor in the London borough of Ealing. Pitzhanger Manor is an 1804 country house designed by and for the architect, John Soane. Project designer, Jo Townshend Architects looked directly to Soane’s original design cues in creating the Hub. These features include:

  • Buildings within buildings
  • Lantern structures
  • Ceiling architecture
  • Internal lightweight tensile forms
  • Fragmentation and dematerialisation of space
  • Ambivalence to resolution
  • Innovative engineering
  • Play of light

The Hub itself is a building set within and upon the existing listed Georgian courtyard masonry walls. The original layout was neither orthogonal in plan nor section, but to simplify the design and construction, the Hub was constructed as an orthogonal layout that could sit within the existing fabric. The existing masonry was built up to form a constant datum. A glazed lantern roof structure sits atop this and provides natural light into the interior space. Close collaboration with the main contractor, JK London Construction Ltd, ensured that the offsite elements of the build were carefully dimensioned.

The space afforded by the construction of the lantern roof gave the team opportunity to reflect the importance of ceilings to Sloane and their structural resolution (or lack of). The Hub’s undulating ceiling-scape takes its inspiration from the famous ‘handkerchief ceilings’ featured in Pitzhanger Manor, but brings them right up to date in terms of material choice and installation.

Formed by a series of vertical fins stretching across the width of the building, the ceiling rises around the perimeter and is lower in the centre. This ambitious feature was achieved by using a series of “tab and wedge” CNC plywood kits which could be easily assembled on site. Structural designer Webb Yates Engineers adapted the design from similar kits they had used on furniture and that was also seen recently on the Riwaq at Brighton Festival.

By adopting methodologies of design and construction such as the use of the CNC kits, the project was able to maximise cost effectiveness and carbon efficiency. Another example is, with the exception of some localised underpinning required by Building Control, the entire project is concrete and steel free, and with much of the existing fabric being reused, the embodied carbon is kept to a minimum.

As a National Heritage site, there were obvious sensitivities in terms of building such an ambitious development so closely integrated within the existing fabric of a listed building. It was essential therefore for the team to work closely with conservation officers at Ealing Council, as well as local amenity groups.

The Hub provides a relaxed, tranquil new building for the Trust’s volunteers and the local community. Its modern methods of construction and design results in a bright, contemporary space that still manages to acknowledge and respect the influence of Soane and the building’s existing history. The use of the JCT Minor Works Building Contract to underpin the project reinforces the idea that whilst simple is often beautiful, it can also be creative, inspiring, and at the same time cost effective and environmentally efficient.

Project Summary:
August 2021
May 2022
Gross internal floor area: 35m2
Gross internal + external floor area: 45m2
Contract: JCT Minor Works Building Contract
Client: Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery Trust
Architect and principal designer: Jo Townshend Architects
Main contractor: JK London Construction Ltd
Structural engineer: Webb Yates Engineers
Feasibility and concept design: Aecom Engineers
CNC plywood fins: CNC Projects
Lighting: Studio Dekka Ltd
Approved building inspector: Ealing Council
CAD software: Vectorworks


Images: Andy Stagg (