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Bristol youth centre gives its users authorship of the space

Words:
Michèle Woodger

Askew Cavanna Architects' redesign of a community centre for black-led charity Full Circle@Docklands has been shortlisted for the MacEwen Award

The history of the charity is expressed within the building through mural artwork.
The history of the charity is expressed within the building through mural artwork. Credit: Alex Campbell

Building Full Circle @ Docklands community centre
Location St Pauls, Bristol
Architect Askew Cavanna Architects
Building type Community centre

Established in 1980, Full Circle @ Docklands is a black-led charity promoting inclusion and enhancing life opportunities for young Bristolians. Its service provision includes a youth and community centre housed in a historic 20th century building. 

Askew Cavanna Architects was appointed to redesign this underperforming space amid the challenges of a hugely restricted budget and the 2020 lockdowns. The practice was nevertheless able to hold extensive consultations with community stakeholders including teenagers, youth workers, representatives from homeless charities, therapists and dance school leaders.

This diverse feedback helped prioritise those architectural interventions that provided maximum social value, namely: increased flexibility of space, new showers, a welcoming reception area, co-working spaces and improved accessibility and acoustics. 

The clients and users also wanted to be able to express the charity’s ethos and history within the building (it was initiated after the 1980 St Pauls riots, themselves a product of social and racial inequality and marginalisation). This led to artwork being used as a narrative device accompanying the users’ journey through the building. The architect’s interventions were light-touch, such as robust flooring and furniture and simple and strategic use of paint to celebrate spaces of social interaction. 

It is so nice to see designers care even when there is a restricted budget

According to Full Circle, the redesigned facility is ‘beautiful, functional and … we can be proud to invite people into it. Our clients are happier and people spread the good word that we’re a place to run their activities from. This means activity that causes social change is finding a home in our community centre.’ 

Giving younger users’ authorship of the space led to new uses of the building, including cooking, dance and media-skills classes, as well as the building becoming a hub for other local organisations.

The judges were won over by the project’s modesty, ingenuity and reach. ‘It was an imaginative way of spending a small amount of money,’ commented Eleanor Young. ‘It is so nice to see designers care even when there is a restricted budget,’ agreed Percy Weston.

 “They could have painted the whole thing magnolia, but they have put some thought into what they are doing with the artwork and to the walls and really focused that budget”.

For more on MacEwen shortlisted projects and architecture for the common good see ribaj.com/MacEwen-Award

  • Extensive stakeholder consultations resulted in teenagers being given authorship of their space, leading to a wider range of uses.
    Extensive stakeholder consultations resulted in teenagers being given authorship of their space, leading to a wider range of uses. Credit: Alex Campbell
  • Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects.
    Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects. Credit: Alex Campbell
  • Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects.
    Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects. Credit: Alex Campbell
  • Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects.
    Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects. Credit: Alex Campbell
  • Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects.
    Full Circle Docklands community centre, St Pauls, Bristol, by Askew Cavanna Architects. Credit: Alex Campbell
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Credits

In numbers
Cost £68,000
Area 450m2
Cost per m2 £151

 

Architect Askew Cavanna Architects
Contractor A&R Services
M&E engineer A&R Services
Artwork facilitators Rising Arts Agency
Photographer Alex Campbell

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