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Penoyre & Prasad transforms chocolate factory into home for children’s mental health charity

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The newly completed Kantor Centre of Excellence for the Anna Freud Centre is located on a restricted site near King’s Cross

The 3,200m2 new build and refurbishment project brings together the best in research, policy and practice under one roof. At the heart of the centre, the Pears Family School provides support for children aged 5 to 14 who have been excluded from mainstream school with serious and behavioural issues, and their families.

The practice worked with the designer Ilse Crawford on the interiors to help create an environment which is calm and welcoming, despite needing to accommodate a diverse amount of uses on a relatively constrained footprint. These include conference and meeting rooms, classrooms and specialist teaching spaces, a library and general workspace.

Kantor centre of excellence anna freud centre penoyre prasad tim crocker

Kantor centre of excellence anna freud centre penoyre prasad tim crocker

Architect’s view

When we first looked at accommodating this level of activity on this site we were wary, but we made several key moves to enable this. We scraped back the inclined ground level to liberate the chocolate factory’s existing basement; we fully excavated the entirety of the site to form a basement around that same building, and we worked with stakeholders to identify which uses could be co-located or timetabled and how working culture would need to change. This allowed us to wholly deliver the brief upon the Rodney Street site – maximising both flexibility and density.

With this intensity of use and the often vulnerable state of mind of the young people accessing services, it was critical to create spaces which reassured, soothed and inspired building users and visitors. We worked closely with renowned designer Ilse Crawford to develop a seamless and common language flowing from architecture through interiors and vice versa. Both practices brought to bear their focus on the needs, functional and psychological, of building users to drive design solutions and a visual sensibility unique to this collaboration.

Within strict overall height limits, Webb Yates Engineers devised with us an innovative composite structural solution absolutely minimising floor build-ups and hence overall building height allowing an additional storey to be built. Not only this, but the exposed engineered timber frame and coffers underpin the humane interiors we were keen to create. Four impressively deep timber beams traverse the entire frontage of the scheme and are visible from within the fully glazed façade.

A diagonal motif unites curtain wall and precast cladding, lending the concrete an almost knitted aesthetic. As that wraps around to glazing it becomes an enamelled frit, which balances the needs of privacy against transparent views out to the park beyond. In both cases the move away from orthogonal orthodoxy speaks of an informality and playfulness which characterises the culture of the centre beyond their recognised research, teaching and practice excellence. Externally we had to reflect the identity of a world-class research institution at the forefront of its field without becoming either intimidating or institutional.

Mark Rowe, partner, Penoyre & Prasad

649 pd ground floor

649 pd ground floor

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site March 2017
Completion May 2019
Gross internal floor area 3,200m2
Gross (internal + external) floor area 6,500m2
Procurement route Traditional
Construction cost Confidential
Client The Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families
Architect Penoyre & Prasad
Interior design Studio Ilse and Penoyre & Prasad
Project manager Avison Young (UK)
Structural engineer Webb Yates
M&E CES Clearsprings Engineering Sustainability
Landscape architect Forum Landscape
Acoustics engineer Gillieron Scott
BREEAM assessors Carbon Plan
Planning consultant Turley
QS Gardiner & Theobald
Contractor Willmott Dixon
CAD software used ArchiCAD

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