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Sanchez Benton gets go-ahead for community centre on Hackney estate

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Emerging practice Sanchez Benton architects has been given the go-ahead for a new community centre project on the George Downing Estate in Hackney, north London

The firm saw off the likes of Charles Holland Architects to win the competition for the £415,000 Boiler House Community Centre scheme in Cazenove Road early last year.

The recently approved scheme includes a main new building, the refurbishment of a one-time boiler block that has been used for community events since 2010, a 181m² multi-use games area, and a new garden for the estate.

The ’very low-carbon’ 176m² new hall, dubbed the garden building, will be built with a softwood timber structure and be clad in corrugated aluminium and red iron oxide-painted wood. 

Sanchez Benton’s project is backed by the The Boiler House Community Space, founded following the death of a young man on the estate’s playground in the winter of 2018.

Practice co-founder Carlos Sanchez said: ’The Boiler House trustees realised the need to expand their programme and offer new opportunities for the community to come together, reduce the sense of isolation of elderly local residents, and provide a safe after-school space for young adults and teenagers.

‘Ten years of austerity and cuts in public spending had obliterated the services provided by the local council for these age groups and they felt the need to plug this hole as a charity.’

Subject to the coronavirus lockdown, work is expected to start on site this summer.

171 gb s4000 pr garden building timber structure iso 2500pxby1765px@120dpi black

171 gb s4000 pr garden building timber structure iso 2500pxby1765px@120dpi black

Garden building - timber structure isonometric

Architect’s view

171 n16 boiler house community centre existing site sanchez benton

The existing site and Boiler House community centre

The existing site and Boiler House community centre

We won the project in competition in early 2019 by proposing a series of weekly co-design and public consultation events organised throughout a six-month long period. The design process was given as much importance as the design of the buildings themselves, forming a key part in galvanising neighbours and allowing people to meet under the guise of the consultation process.

At every event we listened, reviewed and redesigned the project in response to the trickle of information, responses and feedback from the residents and the wider community.

The project is first and foremost a city project, trying to reorder and resolve the shortcomings of the hastily designed tower and slab blocks that form the George Downing Estate and their lack of engagement with the street pattern and frontage.

Our scheme reintroduces a public route through the estate, defines a series of new gardens and allotments, and envisages a new building containing a community living room and studios. The project redefines the interaction between the existing facilities and the road, asserting its central role in the social life of its immediate neighbourhood.

The new garden building references simple agricultural typologies and materials in response to its setting within the community gardens. Corrugated aluminium and red iron oxide painted wood clad a simple softwood timber structure that is left exposed throughout the building. The roof of the main hall rises up to form a north-facing clerestory window, signalling its presence to the street and allowing the building to operate with little need for artificial light throughout the day.

This building and multi-use games area are all set within a new community garden. The games area and Boiler House frame a new public space along the newly created pedestrian route across the estate. All front doors and the new café window will address this new clearing in the garden, creating opportunities for chance encounters and fostering the sense of community.

Our aim was to design a very low-carbon, naturally ventilated building with breathable construction (including wood fibre insulation) that would require very little energy to operate. A solar PV array meets most of the electricity demands and runs an air source heat pump, which in turn provides hot water for the low-temperature underfloor heating system and for kitchens and bathrooms.

Project data

Location The Boiler House Community Centre, George Downing Estate, Hackney, London
Local authority London Borough of Hackney
Type of project Community centre
Client The Boiler House Community Space (charity no. 1148931)
Architect Sanchez Benton architects
Landscape architect Sanchez Benton architects
Planning consultant Sanchez Benton architects
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant Sanchez Benton architects
Quantity surveyor Sanchez Benton architects
CDM adviser Sanchez Benton architects
Lighting consultant Sanchez Benton architects
Main contractor Work
Funding Marathon Fund, Sports England, Reaching Communities Fund, Power to Change Fund
Tender date December 2019
Start on site TBC
Completion December 2020
Contract duration 6 months
Gross internal floor area Garden building: 175.6m²; refurbished existing Boiler House: 148.4m²; multi-use games area: 180.8m²
Form of contract and/or procurement: JCT ICD 16
Annual CO2 emissions Not yet calculated
Total cost Garden Building: £255,000, Refurbished existing Boiler House: £80,000, multi-use Games Area and Community Garden: £80,000

171 00 s1002 pr site plan gf plan 1 200 2500pxby1766px@120dpi black

171 00 s1002 pr site plan gf plan 1 200 2500pxby1766px@120dpi black

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