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34 PROJECT REPORT: MIXED USE SCHEMES


of the two buildings’ entrances. Car access does not spoil the immediate surroundings of the building; as befits its school and community role, the whole frontage has been made a pedestrian piazza, including an area where the cafe can spill out in good weather. The space is also intended to be used for local amenities like farmer’s markets or fetes, and to be a safe space for children exiting the school.


Internal arrangement


The ground floor of the Community Hub contains a cafe, as well as some bookable wellbeing space, and the nursery to the rear. A sliding/folding screen allows the downstairs to be opened up into one large area for community functions, or closed to provide an area separate from the cafe. According to Nick, it’s been well used already: “Every time I’ve been there it’s been closed and is being used for something.”


Images ©Hufton+Crow


The fact that the building has already been well adopted by a wide range of community groups and individuals, providing a diverse range of activities and clubs, is the practical evidence the building is working


The cafe area blends with a double- height volume at the centre of the building, dubbed the ‘Heart Space’ by the architects, which sits behind the front door, and provides a visual connection between the ground and first floor. Adjacent to the stairs, this volume “helps the spaces flow as a sequence, rather than just being a ground floor and then stairs, says Fairham. Up the stairs, the first floor is divided broadly in half by the double-height space. A large exposed truss carrying the main load of the storey above runs front to back and backspans across both areas. “We didn’t worry too much if a cross member went past a window or not, we kind of saw it as part of the playfulness of the interaction of the structure and the mass of the building,” says Fairham. On this floor are further wellbeing spaces – potentially for use by health professionals such as a GP, and there is a mechanically ventilated room suitable for physiotherapy (the rest of the building is naturally ventilated). A smaller balcony/roof terrace at the front provides visual connection to the pedestrianized ‘piazza,’ and offers some breakout space from the group rooms.


The double-cantilevered second floor contains the ‘enterprise space’ – this is comprised of open-plan office space with a raised floor. “The intention is that over time community uses or local businesses will populate it,” says BDP’s project director. Fairham adds that this will “help to activate the space, by looking at opportunities including training.”


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Flexibility of adaptability The client was “very keen that the building chassis was as flexible as possible,” for example to cope with future demand scenarios like the enterprise zone “becoming totally oversubscribed.” However, Nick Fairham says it’s “more about flexibility of adaptability – over time, as the community changes, and what they want out of the building alters, it can be adapted to suit that changing need. He adds: “Because it’s going to be owned by the community in the future, having that flexibility to adapt to their needs is very important – it should be able to deal with most things.” The ‘loose-fit,’ easily screened-off spaces are designed to be shallow in plan so they can be naturally ventilated and lit, but “deep enough to allow some flexibility in use,” says Fairham. By the same token, the fact that the vast majority of spaces aren’t highly serviced means their function can easily be switched if required. The flexibility of the building in terms of being able to use outdoor areas as well as indoors is “already being shown” a few months since opening, says its architect.


The school is something of an unknown quantity, as it serves the new Mulberry Park development and demand is as yet uncertain (it will be taking in one initial year group only). In terms of design, it also has “large, flexible volumes,” says Fairham, as befits the unknown nature of how it may need to adapt. The designers hope that the school, although physically separated, will, like the nursery, be able to use the community spaces within the centre as needed in future.


Conclusion


The fact that the building has already been well adopted by a wide range of community groups and individuals, providing a diverse range of activities and clubs, is the practical evidence the building is working. In more symbolic terms, the Community Hub is an important example of a developer and architect maximising value for the local community, in a built result which offers something visually exciting as well as highly functional.


According to the architect, working with


Curo, an organisation whose values he says align with BDP’s, has been “really refreshing – we are based around social value, and a huge proportion of our work is around community and the public sector. There is a real ambition to make the most of opportunities like this as they come.” 


ADF JUNE 2019


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