Derelict buildings repurposed into community centres, a refurbished bird hide and mini street park outdoors, and a bold district heating scheme improve local conditions in a diverse range of ways
Saltholme Pools Hide
Child Graddon Lewis for the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB)
Saltholme is the retrofit and extension of a dilapidated bird hide in the north east, in a unique wetland habitat surrounded by the area’s former industry. Supported by Teesside Environmental Trust, it transforms a utilitarian and unwelcoming building into a popular community asset.
Its potential was realised by using the existing structure: an uninspiring circular breeze block and steel frame with solid concrete base. The architect punched through these breeze block walls and used natural materials to create inviting and tactile interiors.
The introduction of a second storey allows for panoramic views of the surroundings and wildlife. The structure includes a rooflight to transform it from a drab building into one that now enjoys bursts of natural light. A green roof and stained timber cladding dress the exterior. Despite logistic challenges, this project came in under budget. A zero environmental impact was placed on the site, meaning it was constructed in a narrow window – specifically between bird breeding seasons.
The result is a cherished community asset that now attracts a larger demographic of visitors beyond the avid birdwatcher to this beautiful site – including local schools, families, young adults, tourists, and organisations supporting less privileged members of the surrounding communities.
Catford Mews, Lewisham
Wren Architecture & Design Ltd for The Really Local Group
This new independent entertainment venue and social hub was once a lively market that had fallen on hard times, so alternative leisure/social uses were sought. The Really Local Group was seeking a location for a financially self-sustaining creative and social hub focussed on the locality. The concept may be anchored by a cinema but the wider offering includes a live entertainment venue, food hall, café/bar, community room and workshop/studio space for local artists.
The design stripped back to the shell, celebrating raw textures and materials, juxtaposing elements and colours. Concrete troughs in the three auditoria were exposed and cinema seating was salvaged from a strip out. Bar and food stalls are simple interventions that animate their respective spaces. The history of the space is uncovered and expressed in finishes and artefacts and create a flexible, inclusive and aspirational environment that has become a destination for the local community. Film programming focusses on community interests and lifestyle, and ticket prices are kept low.
The building is intended to be open until late. This affects the perception of the centre, with new businesses establishing themselves including a yoga studio, restaurants and shops, transforming the nature of the old building.
Ada Belfield Centre and Belper Library, Derbyshire
Glancy Nicholls Architects for Derbyshire County Council
Fondly regarded by the local community, the former Thornton’s factory is located in the Derwent Valley Mills, a Unesco world heritage site. The community-focused scheme provides high quality residential care, with 20 long-term and 20 short-term en-suite bedrooms, and a new public library and café. The centre is designed to embody the local heritage of the area, while dispelling the stigma commonly associated with buildings for the elderly.
While the factory was in an advanced derelict state, the new community library breathes life back into the space. It has a strong presence on Derwent Street and on the new public square and the character features and double height volume of the historic building were used to display the library’s books. This was achieved using large, glazed elements which were introduced to the front elevation. The facility is a low-energy design, achieved by re-use of materials, simplicity and efficiency in form, detail, construction, and operation.
The building enables residents to retain their independence, providing opportunities for social inclusion, as well as supporting the creation of local jobs and giving the community of Belper the opportunity to enjoy the facilities.
Bunhill 2 Energy Centre
Cullinan Studio with McGurk Architects for Islington Council
This is the first ever scheme to take an underground train network’s waste heat and use it to provide low-cost, greener heat to local homes and public buildings, while cooling to the Tube in the summer. The expansion of district heating networks could achieve 63% of London’s demand by 2050.
The mayor of London brought together Islington Council and Transport for London to form the outstanding partnership that has delivered this project. Bunhill 2 adds 550 homes and a primary school to the existing district heating network, which currently serves 800 homes and two leisure centres in Islington. It reduces annual CO2 emissions by 500t, lowers heating bills, contributes to the capital’s zero carbon commitments, improves air quality and makes it more energy self-sufficient.
The design’s high quality materials were chosen to link to the site’s industrial heritage. Cladding is recycled aluminium, cast aluminium from waste sources and low carbon, vitreous-coated mild steel. Designed to be demountable, it allows for replacement of entire containerised plant assemblies. The upper storeys’ cut-out pattern responds to varying degrees of ventilation needed for equipment behind, giving the facade dynamism and transparency. Artwork panels by Toby Paterson tesselate along the base, informing and engaging the community.
The Ormeau Parklet, Belfast
OGU and MMAS Architects for Belfast Buildings Trust
The Ormeau Parklet has converted five on-street parking spaces into designed public space to aid physical distancing but also exploring possibilities for future public realm interventions. It uses concrete cattle feeders as both technical safety barrier and planters. Bespoke Corten steel screens, signage and cycle stands are incorporated within, with a coloured tactile pavement surface to support people with people visual impairments.
Delivery within four months required co-ordination and engagement with a range of stakeholders. Policy on reclaiming public space in Northern Ireland is fragmented, with responsibilities spread across several agencies, none of which has the authority to implement the parklet without involving others.
Buildings Trust, OGU Architects, MMAS Architects, and Queen’s University Belfast School of Architecture were involved in the project. Partners collaborated, co-designing the Parklet’s engagement, design and capital build models and prototyping with manufacturers.
At the project’s heart is quality design responding to people and their environment. It delivers clear benefits for local people and businesses by creating additional public space for hospitality seating and socially distant queuing, and a distinctive, characterful neighbourhood destination. The design also emphasises active travel opportunities by incorporating bespoke cycling infrastructure while dealing with safety issues presented by a major arterial route.