img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

TateHindle's Denmark Hill HQ for the Salvation Army is a still voice of calm

Header Image

Words:
Pamela Buxton

Terrazzo flooring with exposed structural concrete and glulam gives the charity’s addition to its London campus an appropriate modesty, with a calm Scandi feel to its showpiece atrium

It’s nearly a century since the Salvation Army embarked on its extensive south London campus, commissioning Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to design the residential William Booth Memorial Training College in Denmark Hill. Completed in 1929, the grade II-listed building is still a formidable presence, thanks both to its austere brick facade and the large back-lit cross on its landmark tower. 

Now it’s been joined by a substantial new addition, a 6200m2 territorial headquarters (UK and Ireland) for 450 Salvation Army staff, designed by TateHindle on an underused corner of the campus. 

For the practice, it has been a long and rewarding project that began in 2016 with a retrofit assessment of the Christian charity’s premises at Elephant & Castle, before it decided instead to move back to Denmark Hill and build anew. The resulting open-plan, near paperless offices considerably changed the workplace culture, which had previously been characterised by cellular offices and extensive on-site documentation storage.

‘It’s a great opportunity to build with an end user that’s really looking to the long term. It’s very much a homecoming for them, back to William Booth Training College,’ says associate Jonathan Pinfield. The practice worked extensively with the client to develop the brief and understand how the building could help bring the organisation into the 21st century. With the client regarding the HQ as a spiritual building rather than just another office block, the practice aimed to ensure that the design provided ‘the connectivity, configuration, space and light’ to support staff in their work.

Site plan. The new HQ is conceived as referencing and balancing the campus’s heritage buildings.
Site plan. The new HQ is conceived as referencing and balancing the campus’s heritage buildings. Credit: TateHindle

Longevity was a priority, along with a pared-back approach. As befits the ‘soup, soap and salvation’ ethos of the client, there’s nothing frivolous or opulent about this design. Instead, it prioritises a limited palette of robust, simple materials, from terrazzo flooring to exposed structural concrete and glulam. But there is a sense of generosity in the soaring space of the central six-storey atrium and the extensive views through, and beyond, the building.  

Keen to avoid pastiche, TateHindle conceived the new addition to complement rather than imitate the existing campus.  Sitting to the west of the main heritage structure, the HQ balances those to the east to effectively complete Scott’s unfinished masterplan. Characterised by a series of bays defined by brick piers, the building takes its cues from the massing and materiality of Scott’s design but demonstrates a rather more welcoming approach to the streetscape than the original campus’ barracks-like attitude. A boundary fence to the pavement has been removed and replaced with public realm leading to a café for staff and public alike adjacent to the entrance.

With heights limited to six storeys, the architect realised that a single block of office accommodation would be too deep. In response, the office is instead arranged as two linked wings around a 22m-high central atrium, with side views out to the clock tower to the east and Ruskin Park to the west. With the addition of the north-south entrance axis, the plan has a conceptual cruciform arrangement reminiscent of church planning. The main entrance is in the north block, which is four storeys with a fifth storey set back. The south block rises to six storeys in response to the sloping site.

Aerial view of the new territorial headquarters (right), with the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott buildings to the left.
Aerial view of the new territorial headquarters (right), with the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott buildings to the left. Credit: Jack Hobhouse

A concrete frame with a 120-year design life was chosen for its longevity and for the wide spans that give flexible future use. To reduce embodied carbon, the structural concrete uses 50% GGBS. It also has ribbed rather than flat coffers to reduce both the volume of concrete and the size of foundations required. This saves 20% embodied carbon compared to standard concrete mixes, according to TateHindle. The exposed concrete also provides thermal mass. 

In terms of external expression, brick was a given, but in a lighter tone – with darker flecks – than the rather dark hue of the tower building. Vertical piers in reference to the proportions of the College are formed in half bricks (Michelmersh First Quality Multi) on a precast concrete backing supplied by Thorp. Deep brick reveals of 450mm (south) and 350mm (north) provide shading and give an impression of more solidity when seen obliquely. The composition also features vertical fins of GRC to refer to Portland stone detailing on the original college.

To mark the north-west corner of the campus, a large cross form has been inset in the brick facade – a more subtle proclamation of the Christian mission than the Scott tower’s illuminated cross. 

While the exterior looks back to its early 20th century neighbours, the interior is very much a 21st century office with the emphasis on staff interaction, connectivity – something distinctly lacking in the previous building – and flexibility. Visitors pass through a double-height reception, where the external brick is continued inside, and into the atrium, which is used variously for events and gatherings and is open on each level to the flanking office areas. As befits a state of the art office, staff have a choice of open-plan workspace, rooms for hybrid meetings and quiet space, and benefit from the 3m floor-to-ceiling heights. All staff, not just the top brass, get to enjoy the best views from the 4th floor break out/informal meeting areas and the impressively panoramic views over London from the extensive terrace.

All staff, not just the top brass, get to enjoy the best views

  • A dramatic atrium overlooked by open walkways forms the heart of the new building.
    A dramatic atrium overlooked by open walkways forms the heart of the new building. Credit: Jack Hobhouse
  • The exposed concrete structure is softened with the addition of birch glulam.
    The exposed concrete structure is softened with the addition of birch glulam. Credit: Jack Hobhouse
  • Reception – the brick walls are a reference to the external expression.
    Reception – the brick walls are a reference to the external expression. Credit: Jack Hobhouse
123

There’s a calm, Scandi feel to the showpiece atrium, thanks in part to the penetration of natural light and the extensive use of timber, which both moderates the acoustics and softens the exposed concrete of the frame. Birch glulam supports the atrium roof and flanks the concrete columns, while oak acoustic panelling covers up most of the services above the flexible space around the edge of the atrium – a Shoreditch-style exposed services approach wasn’t considered appropriate. When sunlit, the timber has a warm glow. 

‘We wanted a simple palette of long-lasting materials,’ explains Pinfield.

This extended to the flooring. For the reception and atrium, the architect chose ‘economic and hard-wearing’ terrazzo as a durable material that goes hand in hand with concrete and complements the oak. Solus Ceramics’ Terrazzo tile was specified in the Hairzi design, selected for its visual warmth and for the size of the crushed stone within the tile. This needed to be large enough for the texture to be visible when viewed from the upper floors looking down into the atrium. 

With acoustics in mind, TateHindle chose carpet on the other levels rather than hard flooring. ‘We knew designing an open atrium would bring challenges acoustically,’ says Pinfield.

  • View through atrium to the entrance.
    View through atrium to the entrance. Credit: Jack Hobhouse
  • Soft flooring in the office areas provides comfortable acoustic conditions in response to the open atrium.
    Soft flooring in the office areas provides comfortable acoustic conditions in response to the open atrium. Credit: Jack Hobhouse
12

The practice selected Milliken’s Tracing Landscapes carpet tile range, chosen for its hardwearing, textured and ‘very good’ acoustic quality. Tiles are used in two shades, the more forgiving darker shade for the circulation route that wraps around the edge of the atrium and the lighter for areas of less heavy traffic. This carpet is also used in editing suites in the building, which have a box-in-box construction for optimum acoustic separation.

Vinyl flooring is used in back-of-house areas. Here, the architect specified Altro Classic 25, a safety flooring with an R11 slip resistance rating.

Eight years after it was appointed to look at a retrofit, TateHindle is delighted with how this unusual project – its largest newbuild office project – has turned out. Salvation Army staff too have responded positively, with a significantly higher number now working from the office than before, suggesting that the architect’s efforts to create a calm and uplifting space have not gone unappreciated. One staff member, Stephanie Lamplough, has even written a poem inspired by the building, which opens:

‘The splendour, the light, the open space,
How blessed we are to be in this place.’ 

  • View down to the cascading breakout areas at the end of the atrium.
    View down to the cascading breakout areas at the end of the atrium. Credit: Jack Hobhouse
  • Milliken’s Tracing Landscapes carpet tile range was specified in two shades.
    Milliken’s Tracing Landscapes carpet tile range was specified in two shades. Credit: Jack Hobhouse
12

Credits

Client The Salvation Army
Architect and interior designer TateHindle
Structural engineer Davies Maguire
MEP engineer and sustainability consultant MTT
Facade consultant Eckersley O’Callaghan
Main contractor McLaren
 

Suppliers

Carpet Milliken
Terrazzo Solus Ceramics 
Vinyl flooring Altro 

 

Credit: TateHindle

Latest

How architects and specifiers can ensure competence and compliance - 2 July 2024

Webinar: Addressing Onsite Safety using Fall Protection Systems

25 June 2024, 9 - 11:30 am

PiP Design for Sustainability Webinar 2024

A 1940s building once used to store steel has been transformed with two expansive staircases, floating glass meeting rooms and workspaces for 150 staff

Two expansive staircases and floating glass meeting rooms fill a space once used to store steel

From trees grafted to grow as furniture, to the natural form of Heatherwick Studio’s Maggie’s Yorkshire, the many forms of nature-based design are championed in an exhibition at Roca London Gallery

The many forms of nature-based design are championed in an exhibition at Roca London Gallery

Take up a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance for urban designers, transform an historic Hertfordshire landmark and gardens or bid for one of four spots on an eight-year framework: these are some of the latest architecture contracts and competitions from across the industry

Latest: £1.6m London West End public realm contest set to launch