‘A really special building – it has made a really big difference’
The Barn, Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses, London
Feilden Fowles Architects for Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses
Contract cost: £412,000
GIA: 103m2 renovated greenhouse, new build 140m2, total 241m2
The Barn – a new community hub for Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses (BPCG) – has been a huge success for its client. ‘This space means that we can now run activities all year round; activities that will benefit our local community… we can make the most of our beautiful garden throughout all seasons,’ enthuses Steph Prior, operations and programme manager of BPCG, a community charity. Judge Alex-Scott Whitby has first-hand experience, as a regular visitor to this neighbouring facility. ‘I think it’s a really special building – it has made a really big difference, enabling [the BPCG] to flourish,’ he corroborates.
The new flexible and adaptable barn replaces a dilapidated potting shed. It reactivates a corner of the site in Brockwell Park, offering a double-height event and teaching space connected to one of the existing greenhouses and an event space overlooking the garden. It provides an accessible WC, storage and back-of-house facilities, housed in a low-tech but robust building (crucially, it is insulated) which facilitates improved services with its high-quality, year-round architecture. It is, as the architect describes it, ‘an enabler’, allowing the 200 volunteers to make better use of their time and skill. It is now able to welcome 45,000 people a year, doubling pre-Covid figures. Participants to the children and family programme have doubled to 5000.
An economical timber frame plus standardised components (akin to Feilden Fowles’ Waterloo City Farm) enabled the team to redirect a limited budget towards high-quality details. The design prioritises flexibility and allows the space to be adapted over time, and the judges viewed the repetition of details from the former project, as a necessary and sustainable approach. ‘It may be really similar to what they have done before,’ observed judge Je Ahn, ‘but it should have cost double!’
Community engagement in the design and construction is evident: ‘Steady dialogue between design team and client, openness to discoveries made on site, and ideas from the BPCG resulted in changes to materials choices,’ says the designer. That impressed judge Isabelle Priest, who commented that the project was ‘strong on how many people have been involved with it.’ Ahn added: ‘They have put a lot of sweat equity in it. The architectural quality is really high.’