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Projects galore: Huge cash injection for England’s youth centres

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Work is still out there for a series of new small- to medium-sized youth centres under the government’s Myplace programme, the nation’s largest investment in under 20s

The Myplace Youth Centre programme, the government’s largest ever investment in the nation’s under 20s, has somehow slipped under the media radar. Yet a raft of top names have already worked on more than 60 schemes, worth at least £240 million. And what’s more, there are further projects up for grabs when the second-round winners of the government’s national Myplace Youth Centre scheme is announced next month.

The Department of Children Schools and Families (DCSF) has earmarked £31.6 million for 10 new youth facilities in some of England’s most deprived areas. The bad news is that around 30 schemes will miss out on the cash. The upside is that not all of those projects have architects.

As a spokesman for the Big Lottery Fund (BIG), which looks afters Myplace on behalf of the DCSF, says: ‘Architects should keep an eye out for the invitations to tender’.

The programme has received little publicity despite the DCSF hailing it as ‘possibly the largest ever investment by the government in youth facilities’ – the last major cash injection being in the ’60s following the Albemarle report. Myplace has quietly attracted a wealth of architectural talent and produced some intriguing youth-led schemes. Last week, the first of 21, round one fast-track schemes opened its doors in Norwich (AJ 12.09.09), with Hudson Architects’ Open Norwich Youth Centre.

The £6 million refurbishment of a Grade II-listed banking hall, with its 1,450 capacity live venue and youth facilities, was backed by £1.3 million of DCSF Myplace cash. This will be followed by a more schemes, such as Adam Kahn Architects’ New Youth Horizon Centre for homeless young people and children in Camden, due to complete in January, and the refurbishment of the Pegasus Theatre in Oxford by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, to be opened in March.

For the architects, collaborating with teenagers has been both a challenge and an eye-opener. Timo Keller of Adam Khan Architects said: ‘We have been working with young homeless people and they have been involved in the design and the way the space inside was formed.’

These initial projects will be followed by nearly 60 more schemes. BIG has, so far, pledged £240 m of cash available for the projects, including conditional funding for 41 standard track schemes in March of this year – 15 of which were picked up by the Sorrell Foundation, known for involving young people in the design process on schools.

The Foundation commissioned van Heyningen Haward Architects (vHH) to design the Hornsey Road Baths Youth Centre in Islington, London. Simon Ricketts, an architectural assistant at vHH said: ‘Our involvement with the young people as a client group was supposed to end at stage C, but now we are stage E and they are still involved. We really wouldn’t have had much of an idea what the user group wanted if it wasn’t for them.’

The success of the Myplace programme will depend on the willingness of local authorities to provide long-term funding for the maintenance of youth centres. Michael Swinson of EllisWilliams Architects, designers of The Fuse in Trafford, said: ‘The vital component is [financial]  sustainability – by that I mean having the finance and level of local authority involvement neccessary for running the scheme in the long-run.’

Due to the scale and capital nature of the schemes, all projects were given free access to the Myplace Support Team – a group of experienced project managers appointed by DCSF and BIG, including youth ambassadors.

As far as the future looks, there’s widespread feeling Myplace won’t end up as another Learning and Skills Council-style debacle – where a funding shortfall left project teams high and dry. But Helen Hughes of SHH remains skeptical: ‘With what’s happened in the financial world, potentially some of it will get pulled. Even so, I’m hopeful a substantial number will go through.’

Round one – selected projects                                

Fast track schemes

Open Norwich (AJ 12.11.09), Architect: Hudson Architects, Completion: November 2009

Shoeburyness Youth Centre, Architect: Camal Architects, Completion: April 2010

New Horizon Youth Centre, London, Architect: Adam Khan Architects, Completion: January 2010

Myplace Chesterfield, Architect: Peter Koyander, Completion: Early 2010

Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Completion: March 2010

Minehead EYE Community Centre, Architect: Mark Kingsley Architects, Completion: May 2010

Access All Areas Youth Centre, Bridgwater, Architect: Smith Gamblin, Completion: November 2010

Sutton Life Community Centre, London, Architect: Curl la Tourelle, Completion: 2010

Green Rivers Centre, Walsall, Architect: Sjölander da Cruz Architects, Completion: unknown

Standard Track

Manchester Youth Zone, Harpurhey, Architect: Stephenson Bell

Thamesmead Youth Leisure Zone, London, Architect: Saville Jones Architects

Oldham Youth Zone, Architect: Mike Davies of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Mark Serventi

The Hut, Wakefield, Architects: Bauman Lyons

Culture Fusion Youth Centre, Bradford, Architects: Bowman Riley Architects

ExtremeConnexions, Hemel Hempstead, Architect: To be announced,

TeenSpace, Shrewsbury and TeenSpace Oswestry, Architect: Shropshire Council Internal Architects

ICE Centre, Stockton-on-Tees, Architect: BDP

The Mix Youth Centre, Suffolk, Architect: Gumuchdjian Architects

Myplace Youth Centre, Solihull, Architect: Dilip Gohil

The Pitch – A Place to Go, Architect: LOM Architecture and Design

The Phoenix Centre, Hastings and Bognor Regis, Architect: HNW Architects

The Station Youth Centre, Bristol, Architect: Stride Treglown

Hornsey Road Baths Youth Centre, London, Architect: vHH Architects

Trafford Youth Village, Architect: EllisWilliams Architects

Southside Regeneration Youth Project, Bath and Bristol, Architect: SHH Architects and Jonathan Hook

The Roundwood Centre, Harlesden, Brent, Architect: Urban Salon

The Link, Newcastle, Architect: Fletcher Priest Architects

Parkfield Youth Centre, Paignton, Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

The Factory, Birmingham, Architect: Marks Barfield (now BCC architects)

Plashet Young People’s Hub, Newham, Architect: Hawkins\Brown

Next month, BIG will announce the allocation of £31.6 m of Myplace funding to 10 schemes for youth centres located within the deprived areas in England. The 40-strong shortlist remains secret, but the announcement will mean new opportunities for architectural commissions.



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