Attention to detail for a historic building’s ‘smallest room’ leads to awards success

We believe every space, no matter how humble, deserves thoughtful design and meticulous attention.

The spaces we use can have a profound effect on how we go about our day-to-day lives – whether it’s a stunning yet functional kitchen, a cosy historic pub lounge or a sleek and inspiring workplace. So our team at NJ Architects were delighted to discover our work on St. Stephen’s Church, a Grade II* listed medieval church transformed into a creative community hub in Ipswich town centre, had scooped a national award for its humble washrooms!

Raising standards

The design has been awarded Platinum in the prestigious 2023 Loo of the Year Awards – which promotes the highest standards in all ‘away from home’ washrooms.

It’s a shared responsibility that involves everyone, from washroom providers and managers to contractors, staff, visitors, and customers. We are proud to contribute to creating washrooms that not only meet but exceed the highest standards.

The design formed part of a wider project to breathe new life into the historic building, which had been closed since 2020 when it housed the Tourist Information Centre.

Exciting new venue

It is now the new home of the Smokehouse music venue, and owners Ipswich Borough Council provided funding through the Suffolk Inclusive Growth Investment Fund to encourage cultural activity in the town centre.

NJ Architects led the extensive works, which included internal and external drainage, free-standing ‘pod’ toilets in the Rush chapel, and a new, level entrance through the tower. A sound-reducing lobby and secondary double glazing reduce noise for nearby residents, and a bar in the south aisle is designed to be both beautiful and functional, with the front recessed around the column bases.

When tradition meets cutting-edge design

Despite its change of use, significant heritage assets were protected and showcased, including the Leman Memorial carving, depicting the family of Robert Leman, a wealthy member of the Fishmongers Guild kneeling at a prayer desk.

Hugh Bunbury, Associate Partner here at Nicholas Jacob Architects, said the renovation of building is an interesting challenge. He said: “At the heart of this project was a balancing act in preserving important historic features with much-needed modern upgrades.

“A building’s washroom facilities may seem like a small thing, but they’re used by many of those who visit and contribute to the overall feeling you get from being in a space. To be given such an accolade is a reflection of our team’s hard work, attention to detail, and the collaboration between all of those who worked on this worthwhile project.”

The award ceremony is on January 18 2024 at the National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull. Read more about the Loo of the Year Awards here.