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Coram Family takes the Wright step forward

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Andrew Wright Associates has won the job of masterplanning the expanding London base of charity the Coram Family.

The practice defeated Cottrell + Vermeulen, Cullinan and Buck, Architype, Walters and Cohen and Proctor Matthews in the race for the secluded Bloomsbury site by preparing a 'bold', 'creative' and low-cost strategy which addressed both the charity's potential requirements during the next 15 years and also paid heed to its immediate space needs.

Andrew Wright Associates felt that the Coram Family's 1.4ha site, which is sandwiched between Brunswick Square and St George's Gardens, had been incrementally built up over the years without a long-term plan.What had resulted was a disorganised, inefficient use of the total area which needed reworking.

The Coram Family, a 261-year-old charity for disadvantaged children, currently uses the site for a variety of different activities.These include a family HQ, a parent centre and surgery, as well as a swimming pool and museum zig-zagging the site. However, circulation is difficult and the site is hard to find or gain access to.

Key to Andrew Wright Associates'winning proposal is its move to rework a dangerous footpath running along one side of the site. Instead, a new through-route on the site of the old path could enable new buildings lining it to have their own individual entrances and, as a result, security could be improved. In future, the other side of the 'vibrant urban street' could include housing, possibly for housing associations. Buildings of four or five-storeys could be built (rather than two-storey ones as at present).

And Wright's proposal also aims - as a priority - to sort out a new entrance to the site (see sketch, inset); reorganise the spaces, including demolishing and replacing the pool and other buildings; and generally to build around the site perimeter.

As a result - over six phases and 15 years - a secure and 'high-quality courtyard environment' could be created inside that perimeter of the site geared towards children's play and recreation. And, claims Andrew Wright Associates, the site as a whole could be 'stitched' back into the urban fabric.The practice has been awarded £10,000 to develop its ideas further.

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