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Page of consents: community and cultural projects win planning

Will Jennings

Latest approvals include Reed Watts' refurbishment of a brutalist school hall, a co-working hub by IF_DO and a Passivhaus leisure centre in Staines


Acland  Burghley School – assembly hall refurbishment

Total area Existing: 661m2, New extension: 18m2
Client Acland Burghley School 
Architect Reed Watts Architects 
Planning authority Camden
Planning ref 2021/1621/P 

Reed Watts is set to extend a Howell Killick Partridge & Amis (HKPA) designed grade II listed school, having recently received listed building consent and planning permission to refurbish and extend the brutalist assembly hall. When the hall first opened in 1968, Architect and Building News said: 'Hexagonal in shape, the hall is "doubled ended" to serve any number of functions, from straight lectures to boxing matches to full-length operatic performances. Great attention has been paid, therefore, to acoustic and lighting detail which must be some of the best in the country.'

Fifty-five years later, that acoustic and lighting tech is not so cutting edge, and both are set to be massively improved. Spatially and in material, however, the building will fundamentally remain as originally conceived. Works will primarily improve circulation and connection between the hall and outside spaces, as well as offering a new changing area and accessible WCs. Architect Matt Watts said that the building 'represents a heroic period in both educational thinking and architectural design', adding that, as an architect, it was his job 'to respect these while addressing current issues such as energy use and access for the widest possible range of users'.

Those users are not only the students, for whom it acts as the main assembly and performance space, but also the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which is also based at the school. The orchestra will use the modified space for rehearsals and a continuation of existing community and student outreach.

HKPA's founding architects met while working on the Aston West estate for London County Council, and a similar consideration for the landscape setting carries through to this project. Trees surrounding the hall have now matured, as has the simple but functional external amphitheatre, which will have loose stones and mortar repaired and new electrics added to enable it to be used as the cultural landscape HKPA originally intended.



IF_DO community hub

Total area 727m2 gross internal, 830m2 gross external
Client London Borough of Haringey 
Architect IF_DO 
Planning authority Haringey
Planning ref HGY/2021/0723  

Covid-19 has forced some projects to curtail or narrow their public engagement, with certain local authorities criticised for shifting 'consultation' for estate demolition to online-only, impeding engagement for communities with low digital access. Faced with the conundrum of a collaborative design process over a period of lockdowns, social distancing and anxiety, IF_DO reached out to local residents with a leaflet drop of 5,000 flyers between October 2020 and last February, specifically looking for a 'radical inclusivity' with the local communities. This led to workshops, interviews, idea development sessions, cooking events and story-telling with a range of local residents and stakeholders.

The engagement process also included taking on two local 'young producers', 23-year-old Carlos and 25-year-old Isha, who worked with local designer CM Studio to develop the brand and identity of the hub. This led not only to practical ideas from the naming of rooms to the laying-out of public space, but also to consideration of how the centre will connect to the area's existing and new communities.

The building itself, The Yard, will transform a locally listed asset set off the main road, incorporating the neoclassical facade of a 19th-century Tottenham brewery building into a community enterprise hub, café, event space and low-cost co-working area. A mesh facade with a vertical rhythm – referencing the doric column entablature of the historic part – wraps around a central atrium and two taller blocks containing offices and co-working spaces of various sizes, topped off with a sedum roof and photovoltaic panels.



Spelthorne Eco Leisure Centre

Total area:
Architect GT3 Architects with Gale & Snowden Architects 
Planning authority Spelthorne Borough Council
Planning ref 20/01486/FUL 

Health – not only of users but of the process of architectural construction – was the driving force behind this new leisure centre in Staines, Surrey. The design was led by GT3 Architects with Gale & Snowden as Passivhaus consultant.

Its approach to deep sustainability is fairly unique in the world of leisure design, especially in such a project combining both dry and wet activity spaces. It could result in a 60 per cent reduction in energy use compared to other new-build leisure centres, with up to 50 per cent less water being used day to day. The water will even be cleaner, with a microfiltration system meaning swimmers will be front crawling through drinking-quality water. GT3 has used what it calls a 'Performance + process' for the development of its design brief. This set out to ensure an equitable and accessible space for all users, of all ages, abilities and needs, and was produced in consultation with local sports, disability and community organisations.

The two firms are committed to post-occupancy monitoring and collecting of data around the building’s functioning. This will be used to develop documentation for Sport England and other national bodies to inform future sports buildings with a sustainable approach, so lessons can be learnt from the scheme to develop better practice for this building type elsewhere.



Blackwall Yard

Total area: 17,000m2
Client Hadley Property Group 
Architects Glenn Howells Architects, White Arkitekter, Panter Hudspith, LDA Design 
Planning authority London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Planning ref PA/20/02509/A1  

While construction gathers pace on the Greenwich peninsula around the former Millennium Dome, developments to the north side of the bend in the Thames are no slower in their developmental process. One such scheme, involving a team of four architects and landscape architects, has just achieved planning permission.

The developer states that inclusive public consultation across various languages was central to the design process, leading to a mixed-use scheme that includes flexible community spaces 'which could be used for prayer and faith meetings', alongside a pub, restaurant, primary school. It is also committed to restoring the historic Graving Dock, opening up the Thames River Path alongside to the area's history and heritage.

Glenn Howells Architects was lead designer, with White Arkitekter and Panter Hudspith working alongside following an international design competition. The developer hoped that by bringing in a range of designers, a breadth of approach, language and specialist expertise would come together that was stronger than the sum of its parts.

The masterplan was developed iteratively, relating to massing that fitted in with the Blackwall Tall Buildings Cluster, balanced with the need to let sunlight deep into the site’s plan and maximise public realm around the historic dock. The four main blocks – the tallest of which is 39 floors – are laid out around the Graving Dock. These will contain 898 homes of various sizes, of which 35 per cent are affordable and 10 per cent wheelchair accessible.

The dock, around which the whole project hinges, is to be retained and enhanced with bleacher-style steps dropping into the basin. Where once there was water, landscape architect LDA has planned a new park as a destination space doubling up as flood attenuation. A central terrace hangs as a jetty over a new pond, which could be used for public bathing. A separate planning application is currently in for a jetty for the Thames Clipper boat service, adding to its river connection.


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