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Piercy & Co wins planning for first civic project

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Piercy & Company has won permission for a new 3,944m² library and youth centre in Kensington, west London – the practice’s first civic scheme

The practice landed the four-storey scheme in Lancaster Road following a design competition early last year, seeing off Duggan Morris Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and ADAM Architecture.

Backed by contractor Mace and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the new building will replace the existing Lancaster Youth Centre on the site, which will be demolished.

The new library will house books and collections currently housed within the 1891 North Kensington Library in Ladbroke Grove, just 50m away. 

According to the practice, the library will be 43 per cent bigger than the current facilities and features three distinct rooms: a ‘grand’ double-height space for reading and study; an informal reading area; and a children’s library.

The four-block development will also become home to a multi-use games area and has been designed so it can be opened up for private and community uses.

Piercy & Company director Stuart Piercy said: ‘This is our first civic building. It is a programmatically complex interlocking series of uses, which helped us articulate and “crumble” the form of the building while retaining some formal civic presence.

‘The internal sequence of rooms vary in scale, texture and warmth but all are visually connected and benefit from carefully manipulated natural light.’

Construction is expected to start later this year and to complete by 2020.

Piercy&company nkl sectional model photography by jack hobhouse

Piercy&company nkl sectional model photography by jack hobhouse

Source: Jack Hobhouse

Architect’s view

We focused on balancing the needs of multiple user groups, seeing shared space as an opportunity to explore a ‘common ground’ that fosters relationships between staff and building users, while increasing the efficiency of the building.

Designing for a complex programme of uses, we have assembled the building as four blocks with a crumbled form. The three well-proportioned blocks facing the street break down the massing and echo the proportion of the neighbouring buildings, amplifying the rhythm of the street. The thoughtfully developed central entrance block has a civic presence that is open and welcoming. Carefully considered planting to the forecourt roots the building within the ‘townscape gap’ condition familiar to the neighbouring Ladbroke Conservation Area.

The external brick skin has a solidity and civic quality that responds to the local context and will age gracefully. The regular façade grid adds formality to the massing, while a ground-floor plinth, distinct from the steady grid, gives a human scale to the entrance. The central entrance has a pattern of perforated brickwork, creating a dappled light internally, while emitting a gentle external glow in the evening.

To contrast the brick skin of the public-facing blocks, a fourth block is crowned with an elegant cladding system of profiled and perforated metal panels to define and visually screen the multi-use games area, which is located at the rear of the site, minimising its presence on the street.

The architectural language is contemporary, yet also sensitive to the local conservation area

We have created an architectural language that is contemporary, yet also sensitive to the local and neighbouring Ladbroke Conservation Area. The understated elegance of the proposal completes the street of neighbouring civic buildings and maintains the staccato rhythm of the immediate terrace and schools.

Both internally and externally the building will be of the highest quality, employing a limited palette of robust and familiar materials that are detailed in a simple yet considered manner, lifted by crafted moments at key junctures where they can be appreciated by all.

Designed to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating, we hope the scheme will become another of London’s exemplar buildings in sustainable design.

Piercy&company nkl entrance on ladbroke grove digitial imagery by studio archetype

Piercy&company nkl entrance on ladbroke grove digitial imagery by studio archetype

Project data

Location Ladbroke Grove, London
Type of project Civic – library, youth centre and third party use
Client Mace for Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Architect Piercy & Company
Planning consultant Pegasus Group
Structural engineer Taylor Whalley Spryra
Services engineer Hurley Palmer Flatt
Fire Engineer The Fire Surgery
Acoustician Clarke Saunders Associates
Ecologist RPS Group
Transport Consultant TTP Consulting
Gross internal floor area 3,944m²

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