Blaze rips through roof as Haworth Tompkin’s £13m restoration neared completion

A huge fire has broken out in the roof of Battersea Arts Centre in south London, currently undergoing a £13m refurbishment by Haworth Tompkins.

More than 60 firefighters are desperately trying to save the Edwardian gem on Lavender Hill.

Everyone is said to have escaped safely but the grade II* building’s tower has collapsed.

People were said to be in tears on the streets as police and paramedics also arrived at the scene.

Smoke billowing from the construction site could be seen across the capital.

London Fire Brigade tweeted: “8 fire engines & around 60 firefighters dealing with arts centre blaze in #Battersea. We were called just before 4.15pm.”

Stirling Prize-winning Haworth Tompkins has been working with the arts centre for about 10 years. Work on the third and final stage was underway.

Marcus Baird, a quantity surveyor at Belfast-based contractor Gilbert Ash, the firm carrying out the work, told Building all the workmen had got out safe, but said “it’s not my place to make a comment, we’ll make a comment [in due course].”

According to contracts database Barbour ABI, the current phase is worth £6m and involves increasing the size of the courtyard, adding a new mezzanine floor to the collection hall, an external staircase to the Grand Hall building and Municipal building, adding PV panels, and other mechanical and electrical and refurbishment work. The job was scheduled to complete this May, according to Barbour.

Tompkins spoke eloquently about the project at Ecobuild last week, explaining how they spent years listening and watching before coming up with their proposals.

The redesign includes a learning hub, workshops, three artist bedrooms and the restoration of the original features such as the dome and mosaic floor.

A project description on the architect’s website says: “Built as Battersea Town Hall in 1893, Battersea Arts Centre is an architectural treasure trove, its exuberant Edwardian Baroque exterior concealing mosaic floors, grand staircases, colonnaded lobbies and glass domes. Working with BAC, Haworth Tompkins has conceived a programme of refurbishing the building not through a single capital project, but by tackling each area as directors or theatre companies find a use for it. In this way the building will be both explored and refurbished on a rolling programme which intrinsically relates to the Centre’s artistic programme. Initial projects include a production of Masque of the Red Death by Punchdrunk in 2008 and Don John by Kneehigh in 2009.”