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Hawkins\Brown turns listed library into community centre

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A 1903 Grade II-listed library on Plumstead High Street in south-east London has been refurbished and extended to create The Plumstead Centre, a new community building

The under-used library on Plumstead High Street has been transformed into a combined centre providing public cultural, leisure and sports facilities for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, as part of the first phase of the borough’s urban framework for Plumstead. 

Amenities include children’s and adult libraries, a café, flexible collaboration space, a gym with badminton court and two large studios for performing arts, yoga or exhibitions.

The library dates back to 1903 and the redevelopment has preserved its existing character while upgrading amenities throughout. A two-storey extension to the rear provides a home for the new leisure facilities.

Plumstead centre hawkinsbrown ©jack hobhouse (14)

At the threshold between the new and old, a full-height glazed ‘box’ creates a level-access entrance leading to a social space where a ‘book mountain’ provides an informal setting for reading and working.

The extension has been formed out of complementary materials to the library: brick, glass and metal. Within the existing building, stripping back has revealed several original features, including barrel-vaulted skylights to the upstairs studio, mosaic tiling to the main stairwell and parquet flooring throughout.

Plumstead centre hawkinsbrown ©jack hobhouse (5)

Architect’s view

The reinvigorated Plumstead Centre is a new type of community building, which combines library, leisure and cultural facilities as part of a redevelopment that has secured the future of a beautiful listed building on Plumstead High Street. The completed building demonstrates how new and old can come together to transform an underused community asset. 

The new spaces have been designed to allow as much flexibility as possible, so that over the years the building will adapt to meet the changing needs of the local community, with space provided for a range of activities – from performances and classes to local events and exhibitions.

Jack Penford Baker, project architect, Hawkins\Brown

16043 theplumsteadcentre groundfloor 200317

Ground floor plan

Client’s view

As a building for the local community, the Plumstead Centre was designed through close collaboration and discussion with residents. I am incredibly proud of the centre and the new year-round opportunities it will offer residents through its flexible and adaptable design. Elements of past, present and future Plumstead have been seamlessly embedded within the building, from the reinstatement of our print collection through to the stories written into the façade by local schoolchildren.

Danny Thorpe, leader, The Royal Borough of Greenwich

16043 theplumsteadcentre section 200317


Project data

Start on site November 2018
Completion February 2020
Gross external floor area 2,537m²
Gross internal floor area 2,329m²
Contract or procurement route Two-stage design and build
Construction cost £11.8 million
Architect Hawkins\Brown
Client Royal Borough of Greenwich
Structural engineer Stantec, Pete Brett Associates
M&E consultant Stantec, Pete Brett Associates
Quantity surveyor Faithful + Gould
Project manager Faithful + Gould
CDM coordinator Faithful + Gould
Main contractor Osborne

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