Gort Scott transforms a redundant magistrates’ court into council offices


Dirk Lindner

‘The Magistrates’ by Gort Scott comprises the re-purposing of a redundant magistrates’ court into council offices for the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Delivered in just five months, the £860,000 scheme includes collaborative working spaces, meeting areas, quiet desks and a cafe.

The existing building was not inclusiveor suited to office use, says the architect. A suspended ceiling on the ground floor concealed the services and resulted in low, dark spaces. The entrance was ill-defined and unwelcoming, while much of the plan was cellular in nature. On the upper floor, a long corridor with a picture window at one end provided access to four top-lit yet gloomy court rooms.


The entire building has been stripped back, with non-structural walls and suspended ceilings removed to create large, open-plan offices with exposed services and soffits. The existing concrete screed has been exposed, decorated and sealed.

Ground and first-floor plans

Central to the scheme is a public cafe that doubles as a reception and waiting area. The space is colourful and inviting while still retaining the building’s robust character. An undulating lightweight fabric ceiling is intended to evoke the lawns outside.


Robust low-cost materials were specified throughout, including exposed concrete and plywood. A painted floor pattern runs through the plan, which was applied by members of the design team.


A large, well-lit open-plan space has been created on the first floor by opening up strategic non-structural walls dividing the first-floor courtrooms and retaining the rooflights. “Close collaboration with the client allowed us to refine the brief, zone adjacent departments, and incorporate break-out spaces for cross-departmental working”, says the architect.

Additional Images


Gort Scott Architects
Structure, services, qs
London Borough of Waltham Forest