Spring is in the air with a horticultural scheme for people with disabilities, a collaboration hub inspired by flowers and Eden Project North – plus new community space for a synagogue
There are two trips to Surrey in this planning update – one to Heatherwick Studios’ flower-inspired collaboration hub for biopharmaceutical company UCB, the other to Matter Architects’ horticultural and craft facilities at The Grange Centre for People with Disabilities. At the other end of the country, Grimshaw has consent for shell-like biodomes at the Eden Project North, and a new synagogue operating from two houses in Barnet will have a brand new space to support the community
UCB Life Science Hub
Site area: 11.26ha
Design architect: Heatherwick Studio
Lead consultant: Veretec
Landscape architect: Erlam Studio
Planning authority: Surrey Heath Borough Council
Planning ref: 21/1122/FFU
An early model of this scheme saw the existing site and post-war rectilinear buildings modelled from white card with a wilting flower sat at the heart, a proposition to the client taken forward to design, and now successful at planning. That ‘flower’ building is the Collaboration Hub, a three-storey bulging exposed timber frame of repeating curved elements. At its heart is an open atrium, light from inclined roof glazing panels flooding the central space and the open levels within, also featuring exposed timber – Heatherwick building on its use of the material at its Leeds’ Maggie’s Centre.
A bridge from the entrance connects to the wider site, which is within Green Belt land. The planning officer's view,advising to the committee, was that the new Hub would not be inappropriate as it takes the space of the existing Biology East building, infills surrounding buildings, and would not be visible from public view. Those wider buildings will largely remain as they are, but with minor facade interventions to provide new circulation around the site and towards the new Hub building.
Lisa Finlay, partner and group leader at Heatherwick Studio, said that the ‘buildings speak to the landscape and together provide an inspirational setting for creative thinking’. The landscape being spoken to will also be worked, with Erlam Studio’s site-wide plan restoring the many lawns and meadows, and a new productive forest garden proposed, complete with a layered system of fruit trees and shrubs.
Eden Project North
Arguably the most successful of all the Millenium projects across Britain was Cornwall’s Eden Project. Grimshaw was behind the original project, and two decades later has returned to further explore its biodome aesthetic, this time over a corner of Morcambe that has been slowly being claimed for leisure uses since the mid 19th century. Currently, the coastal bulge which sits up against the broad sandy beaches has a collection of car parking, lawns and civic amphitheatre, but will soon be unrecognisable as a a cluster of four bulbous biophilic shells formed of engineered timber gridshell and ethylene tetrafluoroethylene cushions containing programming, performance, and science spaces alongside food and beverage and a series of observatory platforms and walkways overlooking planting.
Externally, the shells will be connected through a new surface dunescape, a green and coastal-vegetation covered roof membrane, and a series of gardens will spread across the external areas of the site relating to the ecology of the local area, and offering spaces for natural exploration as well as social activity.
David Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International, said: ‘When people talk of levelling up, this is exactly what we are doing here’, and with £50 million of the expected £120 million cost confirmed it may be an early – and spectacularly visible – test of the government’s ambition to invest in the north of the country.
Beth Shmuel Synagogue
Two semis from around 1900 are to be demolished, alongside an adjoining property converted into four flats, to make way for a new development. But this will not have any impact upon London’s housing crisis, and has the surrounding community at heart.
Since the 1950s the two domestic spaces have been operating as a synagogue, envisaged by founder Rabbi Halpern as a Shtiebel centre, a Chassidic community-led space with access, welcome, and prayers at all times of the day. Over the years, they have been opened and extended, with a Mikvah ritual bath constructed in the rear garden, though the main synagogue space across the two semi-detached properties has remained the same since the 1970s, despite a local Jewish population increase of 34% between 2001 and 2011.
Rabbi Halpern, who had lived in one of the two houses, died in 2015. Around 5,000 people turned out to mark his passing, though his ambitions live on through these granted proposals from John Stebbing Architects [JSA]. Several design workshops were held with the local community to determine aesthetics, massing, and materials, with younger members of the synagogue even developing their own CGIs to hold a dialogue with the architects. Insisting only on high quality materials and detailing, JSA considered its role, as a non-Jewish architect, to ‘advise, cajole, and enable the community to express itself architecturally’ – not to influence tastes or push an aesthetic solution.
The new civic building will comprise a function hall, main synagogue space, retention of the existing Mikvah (which was renovated in 2012), Shtiebels for informal prayer, offices and four flats which in effect upgrade the living spaces from the converted adjoining property.
The Grange Centre for People with Disabilities
Back to Surrey to another collaboratively designed civic-minded project. Working with the staff and people supported by this disability charity, Matter Architecture has developed a new outdoor learning centre on an application site which sits up against an historic walled garden. The garden has proved central to the charity’s offer, both as a space for horticultural sessions and training programmes as well as for the visiting public.
The scheme will see a mix of new and retrofitted buildings and the cohesive placemaking of a site which has grown piecemeal over the years, with older architectures of varying quality alongside temporary units, shipping containers, and a mix of hard and gravel surfaces. The new scheme will provide a net increase of 192m2 usable space for the charity, but more importantly the new and re-worked buildings will be more functional, usable year-round, and better support the specific needs of users and staff.
Existing horticultural and woodworking facilities will be improved, as will the shop which sells the garden produce to the public – offering work placement and public interaction experiences for the those supported by the charity. The kitchen and café will be moved and improved, while a new pottery studio and flexible communal spaces are added to the offer. Across all buildings, simple and robust materials offer a strong agricultural palette. Brick walling, vertical timber boarding, zing standing seam and flat green roofs will age into the site, with the Grange community collaborating in the construction and decoration of the project with pottery murals, outdoor planting, and furniture.