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The Tree House, Elephant and Castle

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Bell Phillips-designed park platform, promenade and community facility hovers like a blade around the trunk of a mature tree

The Tree House.
The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan

2024 RIBA London Award

The Tree House, Elephant and Castle
Bell Phillips for Lendlease
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 134.5m2

The Tree House is a platform, promenade and community facility in the heart of Elephant Park, which takes as its focus and inspiration the mature trees that grew between the blocks of the former estate. The value of these trees was recognised early in the wider masterplan for Elephant and Castle. This project reflects that value through careful conservation and inventive design. The Tree House was envisaged by its architects as a hovering blade around one tree’s trunk. The design engineers, Webb Yates, embraced and enabled this idea in an efficient structural and architectural solution.

  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian OSullivan
  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
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As the rain fell, the jury was greeted by the client and the architect under the floating canopy that wraps around the mature tree. Inside, the jury found a popular, busy coffee shop run by a local company, a flexible community room and public toilets. The platform that forms the roof over all these facilities provides fun, elevated views of the park and is accessed by two timber staircases that combine to create an ambulatory circuit. The lighting strategy also plays an important part: lighting consultant Speirs Major has produced a scheme that focuses on the tree at the heart of the plan.

Structurally, the extensive use of cross laminated timber has lowered the project’s embodied carbon. Timber is supported by the requisite steel balustrading to protect the cantilevers from too much ‘bounce’. The whole building sits on a concrete slab with raised edges, which in turn sits on galvanised steel screw bore piles. This is vital to allow the building to avoid damage and maintain good drainage to the tree roots. 

  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
  • The Tree House.
    The Tree House. Credit: Kilian O'Sullivan
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The building has a civic presence in the park and, by the open qualities of its design, is attractive and welcoming. It is a joy and a relief to see a building of this scale in the heart of such a dense housing and commercial development, and the jury was inspired to see how it is already in great demand among the local community.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Charles Edward

Structural engineer Webb Yates

Environmental/M&E engineer Ritchie + Daffin

Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Gardiner

Project management Lendlease

 

Credit: Bell Phillips
Credit: Bell Phillips
Credit: Bell Phillips
Credit: Bell Phillips
Credit: Bell Phillips

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