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Social spirit: Salesian Community House designed by MSMR Architects

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This £6.8 million multi-purpose building for the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order in Battersea has a copper-clad chapel at its heart

The Salesian Community House, which has been shortlisted for the RIBA London Awards, forms part of a wider masterplan which includes a new secondary school, St John Bosco College. Many of the facilities are shared with visitors, students and local residents. The Salesians have been in Battersea for 125 years and this development is designed to consolidate their presence and strengthen their ties with the area.

Located on a triangular site where Orbel Street meets Surrey Lane, the building comprises two accommodation wings of three storeys, which hinge off a glazed main entrance and circulation space. The building has a cranked form, with decorative dog-toothed brickwork and recessed balconies, accented by perforated metal balustrades.

The building’s geometry is designed to create a strong sense of enclosure, concealing a landscaped garden and cloister at the rear. At the heart of the scheme sits the chapel, with three splayed apses terminating in a series of decorative glass screens, each framing the view to a mature tree – a sanctuary central to the building’s function as well as its form.

Salesian house 14 © jza photography

MSMR designed the new community house to move away from an institutionalised model with a segregated lifestyle, to a more open and integrated way of living. The internal layout balances a need for quiet, contemplative areas with the provision of generous, welcoming spaces, open for public use. Members of the order, the neighbouring school, the parish and the public share the use of flexible offices, meeting rooms and a library at ground floor, while at first and second floor level, there is private accommodation for residents and visitors.

The building achieved a BREEAM rating of ’Very Good’, utilising a CHP plant, energy-efficient equipment lighting with PIR controls and occupancy sensing, water consumption monitoring and management by the occupants, energy generation through photovoltaics and local sourcing of materials. 

Salesian house 19 © will scott photography

Architect’s statement

The Salesian house project was an exciting commission for us and a great opportunity to develop a close working relationship with an unusual and exemplary client.

Our proposals had to be co-ordinated with the development of a new school on adjacent land. This was a very rewarding process in which we worked in tandem with the wider professional team (led by AHMM) and the contractor (Lend Lease) to take account of the site-wide masterplan. This culminated in a joint planning submission for the school and the community house.

The geometry of the site was both a challenge and a driver for the design and the complex duality of their needs required us to marry public uses with private spaces - arranging such a wide mix of uses within a relatively small building was not an easy task. Making sure the offices, bedrooms, communal living spaces, educational facilities and library would all be able to function properly, without compromising the pre-eminence of the chapel, was paramount.

Simon Robinson, project director, MSMR Architects

Salesian House plans ground floor

Project data

Start on site July 2014 
Completion January 2016
Gross internal floor area 2,320m²
Form of contract JCT Traditional
Construction cost £6.8 million 
Construction cost per m² £2,630
Architect MSMR Architects
Client Salesians of Don Bosco UK 
Structural engineer 
Michael Barclay Partnership 
M&E consultant Cudd Bentley Consulting 
Quantity surveyor Synergy LLP
Landscape architect Randle Siddeley Associates
Acoustic consultant Sharps Redmore Acoustic Consultants 
Arboriculture consultant Treeworks Environmental Practice 
Project manager 
Synergy LLP
CDM coordinator
 Synergy LLP
Approved building inspector 
Approved Design Consultancy
Main contractor Rooff 
CAD software used AutoCAD, Revit 
Annual CO2 emissions 12.5kg/m²

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