Architect's east London civic centre shows that PFI projects don't have to compromise on the design.
Tony Blair will be pleased: at a reception last week for architecture's great and good, he blasted public architecture as ugly and called for a new era of civic pride. Now the private finance initiative's reputation for delivering poorly designed public buildings is about to be challenged.

Carillion has teamed up with award-winning architect Hodder Associates to build a "design-led" civic centre for the east London borough of Hackney. It is, says Hodder associate Adrian Friend, an attempt "to prove that PFI can deliver good products".

Under the deal, cash-strapped Hackney will gain a library, public IT facilities, a local museum and offices for 450 council workers. Carillion is also building shops, cafés and a private gym to part-finance the £19m scheme.

The U-shaped Technology and Learning Centre, or TLC, will form one side of Hackney's Town Hall Square, with a café spilling onto the square and a three-storey glazed atrium to entice people in. The library will occupy the first floor, with council offices filling the taller of two wings and the fitness centre in the shorter one.

The building will make extensive use of fairface concrete and glass curtain walling, and will feature a chilled-beam cooling system. Piling work has already been finished on the scheme, which is due for completion in February 2002.

Hodder Associates is one of the country's most decorated architects. In 1996, the Manchester-based practice won the £20 000 Stirling Prize – British architecture's richest award – for the Centenary Building at the University of Salford.

Carillion is design-and-build and facilities management contractor, Waterman Partnership is structural engineer, Waterman Gore is M&E consultant and Northcroft is QS. The client is Investors in the Community (Hackney Ltd).