Building design and architecture

A computer-generated image of the new building, being built by Willmott Dixon under a traditionally procured contract, and set to be completed in early 2019.

FREE SCHOOL ACCOMMODATED The new Anna Freud Centre headquarters is being built by Willmott Dixon under a traditionally procured contract, and is expected to be completed in early 2019, and to be in full use the same year. At the front – in the space made vacant by the excavation of a former courtyard – will be the new six-storey building housing The Family School. The School caters for youngsters with a range of mental health issues, the majority of whom are on the point of exclusion, or have been excluded from mainstream schools, and need special help and tuition for anything up to a few months. Existing pupils will transfer from The Family School’s current site in nearby Red Lion Street soon after the building’s completion. The refurbishment element, meanwhile, will see the five-storey former Victorian chocolate factory and warehouse behind converted into a combination of head office facilities, therapy, and research spaces for the Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families. During an interesting hour and half’s discussion with Mark Rowe at Penoyre & Prasad’s Islington offices, I learnt more about the scheme, the background to the centre’s construction, and how the treatment and care philosophies espoused by the charity have informed its design.

BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER Mark Rowe told me: “In broad terms this project is about bringing together a lot of different people and services that weren’t necessarily widely dispersed, but were based on two or three sites, including the house at 20 Maresfield Gardens that Anna Freud moved into when she arrived in the UK, and lived in until she died in 1982. The development and construction of the new building will mark a new chapter for the Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families, which does a lot of work in both the public and private sector; its expertise is harnessed by many schools today.” Alongside hosting the charity’s key administrative and headquarters functions, and the free school, the new centre will incorporate clinical spaces for a wide range of therapy sessions for children and young people, and a variety of flexible ancillary and ‘breakout’ spaces. Mark Rowe explained that the Family School, which was founded by, and has been sponsored by, the Anna Freud Centre for some years – will be able to accommodate up to 48 students, being taught on a short-term basis. He elaborated:


As ‘a world-class institution’, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families was keen that its new building be architecturally striking and distinctive.

“The Family School has class sizes of a maximum of six. Each pupil is accompanied by at least one carer – usually a family member – and each lesson involves at least two teachers. I believe this is a unique approach, based upon the philosophy shared by both the school and the charity – that children should not stand alone; it is all about their family and support structure. Although the Anna Freud charity and this free school are separate entities, there is a lot of crossover in terms of governance and Trustees etc.”

A VERY DIFFERENT MODEL The architect continued: “This school was always going to be like no other alternative provision school, with teaching methods and philosophies originating as much from clinicians as teachers. Pupils will typically be wearing their usual school uniform, and may only be taught there for a matter of weeks, the aim being to return them to their mainstream school once their behaviour and mental health issues stabilise. Parents of pupils who have been taught at the Family School tend to be quite evangelical about its benefits.” Alongside the new school and the charity’s head office functions, the new Centre will accommodate facilities for the Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families’ postgraduate teaching and research work, part of which is currently based at University College London. Mark Rowe said: “The easiest way to conceptualise the building is that there will be 300 full-time posts within it. This co-location of services and disciplines, and the resulting synergies, are not an unusual idea, and one of the goals will be to achieve some efficiencies. More important though will be to provide a facility that the charity and school can really call home.”

A DIFFERENT ORIGINAL BRIEF The architect explained that when Penoyre & Prasad originally came to the project, the scheme the practice was interviewed for was a smaller building on the site near King’s Cross and the refurbishment of the charity’s Hampstead properties. Showing me slides of the Edwardian houses, he said: “Although the Centre’s management and staff are excited about the new Centre and the facilities it will offer, the charity is rich in heritage and history, and in many ways the move will be a huge wrench. The houses in Maresfield Gardens feature typical-of- the-era cornicing and panelling which are now showing signs of wear thanks to years of

institutional use, but have all the signifiers of domesticity.

“The ‘pitch’ I made for the original scheme,” he continued, “was that we were mainly going to do things such as reinstate picture and dado rails, and choose some tasteful colours from Farrow & Ball and buy some interesting new furniture. We were not going to make a very heavy architectural intervention. We discovered – through the consultation process with the different stakeholder groups – that such a scheme would have seen a high degree of duplication and repetition of facilities, and potentially lots of travelling between the new campus and Hampstead. The client concluded that we should actually try to get more onto the King’s Cross site.”

A ‘COMPLEX’ SITE Of the Rodney Street site, Mark Rowe explained: “The block at the back was originally a sizeable chocolate and coffee factory and associated warehouse, which was completed in 1915. The Anna Freud Centre acquired the site in 2004. Suffice it to say that the situation there was complex – it was tough to get the scale of development the charity wanted approved by the planners.” He continued: “We are building significantly at the front of the site, replacing some of the previous development at the rear, and building over the whole of the ground floor, plus sinking into the entirety of the site as a basement. The conversion of the former factory – parts of which have been used as office space since the 1990s – will take up about 1,000 square metres of the development. The location is very central, with a small but attractive park and church opposite, which service-users will have access to.

“The overall concept,” Mark Rowe explained,

“was to reinstate the terraced front that would have been there in Victorian times. We did a lot of research, but couldn’t lay our hands on old photos of the site, but from everything we could find, we knew there had been an archway from the courtyard to the factory beyond. We have also had extensive discussions with heritage officers at Islington Council. Although the factory hadn’t been listed, they were still anxious about how the building and site would be developed.” The architect added: “It represents a very interesting moment in architecture. You look at some aspects and feel you are viewing elegant Victorian construction, but then notice others that are quite modern and brutal. The Great War

©Penoyre & Prasad

©Penoyre & Prasad

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40