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Stephen Lawrence Centre has ‘failed’, says Adjaye

David Adjaye has admitted the Stephen Lawrence Centre, which he designed and completed in 2007, has ‘failed’

Speaking as part of BBC World Service’s Dreambuilders series, Adjaye said: ‘The project has failed. It’s gated; it has security cameras everywhere and it has barbed wire. But that is because of the context we are in now. I hope that in 10 years or in five years this changes.’

The £10 million community centre in Deptford, south-east London, which is dedicated to the murdered student who wanted to become an architect, has been plagued by vandalism. Attacks started within a week of the centre opening, with windows designed by Chris Ofili among the items damaged or smashed.

However, Adjaye claims that, had he known vandalism would take place, he would not have made the scheme look any different. He said: ‘To change the design would be to respond to vandalism. There was a discussion about bricking up the windows [but] I would say: no – it’s better to fail but to have a strong position than to make something nobody wants to go to.’

Marco Goldschmied, whose Foundation sponsors The Stephen Lawrence Prize, said: ‘Adjaye is being a bit hard on himself. Perhaps the building is a bit too delicate [for its surroundings]. But we [as architects] get blamed for everything.’

The charity declined to comment.

Adjaye’s admission comes as Wakefield Council voted to allow the demolition of its Adjaye-designed market hall.  The six-year old, £6.2 million building is to be replaced by a new leisure complex.

Adjaye said he had learned of the decision ‘with huge regret’. He said: ‘Sadly, more and more markets are being lost to standardised commercial developments and this is real loss for the character of our urban centres.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • How refreshing that someone as renowned as David Adjaye can admit to and reflect on design failure. I don't know the scheme well, but it appears to be more of a failure in the public realm design and perhaps a lack of social activity and public supervision than the building itself? Is there any other reason why this building would be a more attractive object for attack than any other with a glazed facade?

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