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Leicester City Hall

Refurbishing an art deco, city centre council building, delivered with staff in occupation

Willmott Dixon restored and refurbished this four-storey, 1930s art deco building called Attenborough House in Leicester city centre, to accommodate the transfer of staff from the council's head office in New Walk Centre into the restored building, which was renamed City Hall.

The project brief included an additional four-storey building (Bosworth House), which was refurbished to provide further office accommodation.

In addition to sensitive restoration of original Art Deco features, our skilled team also created new committee and function rooms to allow the city council to hire out spaces at the venue for weddings and functions.

We also transformed the old rates hall, where residents used to pay their taxes, into a function room which can be hired by members of the public, as well as the revamping of an auditorium and conference rooms.

Challenges and innovations

The project included significant survey and investigation work, as there was uncertainty about the structural condition of Attenborough House due to no original drawings existing. We carried out demolition, asbestos removal, and structural alterations.

The project was phased so that 600 council staff could be relocated to the new City Hall site by June 2014, several weeks before final completion of the building.

The key to meeting the June deadline was progressing the building services design and procurement as quickly as possible, achieved by involving the M&E contractor in meetings with the council’s design team

Planning the logistics of moving staff into the upper floors meant construction of a temporary reception area and various internal structures and hoardings, plus access and escape routes. Leased shops and business units in the building remained fully operational during the refurbishment.

Despite the technically challenging nature of the project, and the issues around working in a live environment, we had no RIDDOR incidents throughout.

Nick Heath, operations director at Willmott Dixon in the East Midlands, said:

“This was a really interesting project as it involved restoration of a historic building and provision of office accommodation appropriate for the modern age. We have created areas of Civic space in addition to the council offices which opens up the building to the people of Leicester. With staff members relocating to the building while our work continued, it presented unique challenges that were successfully managed as we continued to work on the lower floors.”

Restoration work

The art deco building was restored as near to the original features as possible. All remaining period fixtures, fittings and features were carefully removed, upgraded, and supplemented by sympathetic new fittings.

Challenges included sourcing a new handrail artificially aged to give it the patina of a 1930s finish. A hardwood feature wall to the ground floor reception lobby exceeded the client’s budget, so we engaged our specialist joinery contractor to create an alternative solution which met the budget and the client’s visual expectations.

“The elements of the site on view and peripheral signage are well presented. Inside and out of public view are also professionally and well managed and overall the image projected is excellent.”

Considerate Constructors Scheme monitor


  • Restoration of 1930s art deco office building to create council offices
  • Extensive survey investigations due to lack of original drawings
  • Fast-tracked building services design to meet tight programme
  • Constrained site in a busy, city centre location
  • Logistical challenge of moving 600 staff into new building while work continued




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