Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Archaeological Excavations at the Beaney

Latest photos of the current archaeological excavations at the Beaney. Following recent finds from the Roman era, the experts anticipate further finds such as traces of frescoes and fragments of mosaics. When the excavations are complete the Main Contract Works commence for the Heritage Lottery funded extension, conversion and restoration of the Museum, Art Gallery and Public Library.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Holmes Road School

Sidell Gibson Architects have been appointed by the French Education Property Trust Ltd. to refurbish and extend an existing Victorian school building in North London. The New French School, Kentish Town will include a nursery, primary, and secondary school for 700 pupils. The Grade II listed Holmes Road School was last used by Kingsway Community College and has been lying empty since 2008. The scope of Sidell Gibson's appointment includes conservation and restoration work to the existing slate roofs, lead gutters, brickwork facades and timber sash windows whilst at the same time upgrading the thermal performance of the existing fabric.

As part of the Planning Submission, Sidell Gibson's conservation architecture department researched the original history of the building:

The Holmes Road School is an early example of a Victorian Board School built 1872 – 74 to the designs of the First Board School Architect of London, E.R. Robson 1837 – 1917. Typically, the Board Schools are three-decker buildings – ground, middle with high ceilings, and the second floor with steeply pitched roofs. Infants at ground level, Boys on the first floor, with Girls on the second floor. Board Schools introduced separate classrooms for different age groups, when before, classes were held in one large single space or hall. Each floor had six classrooms arranged on three sides of a large central space or hall. The first floor included the school hall rising up one and a half storeys with a gallery on one side to give access to the Girls’ classrooms. Above the hall was the Girls’ covered play area. The Board School came to have long school rooms with windows in the end walls and in the centre of long external walls, to bring light to desks from the side rather than from the front and back. This resulted in large areas of blank walls with high window cills to stop children looking out of windows during classes. 1,200 children was the average size of these schools and with no playground or trees owing to the tight constraints of the sites that were compulsorily purchased resulting in wholesale demolition of houses such as at Holmes Road.

The school site that now forms part of the Inkerman Conservation Area on its northern edge along Holmes Road, as we see it today, was built following the Crimean War where streets were named after prominent battles – Alma, Inkerman, and its personalities – Raglan. As a result of the 1870 Education Act, Board Schools were established to provide new schools paid through the local rates. Robson’s Holmes Road School was designed as a response to the tight constraints of the site available to him at the time after a number of Victorian houses were compulsorily purchased during successive periods, along Holmes Road, then called Mansfield Place, Willes Road and Cathcart Street. During Robson’s time, his school was hidden by houses on the south side and was not intended to be seen, therefore, the setting and grouping of the buildings are not original to 1874, but are from a later period after further houses were compulsorily purchased and demolished to form the playground. The playground itself is therefore not original to the school.

After the First World War, in 1923 the school opened after school hours for evening classes as a Community Centre for Education. In 1924, again after normal school hours, it was a venue for the Kentish Town Camera Club and Weightlifting Club, then by 1927, held courses as the Junior Men's Institute where practical skills were taught in wood, metalwork, boxing, hygiene and first aid . The last children left in 1931 and the school renamed as the Kentish Town Men's Institute then the Kentish Town & East Hampstead Institute. During the last war, the buildings were used for Local Civil Defence, the RAF Volunteer Reserve and A.R.P (Air Raid Precautions) Training, and in 1940, was requisitioned by the Meals Service for Home Guard Training and as a Rest Centre. The front iron railings were removed in 1942 as part of the war effort - and towards the end of the war, sections of the buildings on the first floor, was taken over by Camden School for Girls, the Junior School and first year seniors remaining there until 1949. By 1956 the 45 separate Men's and Women's Institutes in London were reorganised into 33 mixed Adult Education Institutes, each with between 3,000 and 4,000 students and usually five branches based in secondary schools so that residents should not be further than half a mile away from classes. The Holmes Road School became the headquarters of the Kentish Town & East Hampstead Institute, finally becoming the Kingsway College for Adult Education, providing classes in car maintenance, art and dance (pictures below show 1970s dance class and same room today) amongst others.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Beaney Institute, Canterbury

In many ways The Beaney Institute typifies the requirements of an English Heritage Lottery funded project. The original Grade II Listed Building located in the centre of Canterbury was completed in 1894 for a local benefactor, Dr Beaney. It comprises a museum, art gallery and library. As was the case in the late nineteenth century, this cultural institution contained a number of large discrete public rooms for display and study with almost no other spaces for supporting activities. Over time the building has grown with ad hoc additions, but inevitably, the increasing needs of the community and ambitions of the institution have demanded an overhaul and major redevelopment. Following winning the commission in an OJEU promoted competition, our brief was to upgrade and preserve the Listed fabric, to provide full access for the disabled, to upgrade and extend the gallery spaces to meet twenty first century curatorial and lending requirements, to provide exhibition design and interpretation for the visitor, to extend and improve the lending library spaces, to provide educational spaces for schools and community use, to provide amenities such as café and WCs together with improved back of house accommodation and plant space. These objectives were facilitated by the Council acquisition of a pair of adjoining buildings, which together with the demolition of existing outbuildings in a rear public car park provided the necessary space for a large new extension fronting onto an adjacent road, Best Lane. The proposed plan develops a new fully accessible public entrance off Best Lane and leads through a two and a half storey top lit atrium to a central reception point, which is level with the existing building’s raised ground floor. This reception and new café area is also at the end of the existing main circulation route from the existing High Street entrance off which the new main lift and staircase link the upper levels. The new extension provides additional floor space for the public library at ground floor and enlarged mezzanine space, being spatially connected with light wells and accommodation staircases. Similarly, new gallery space is provided off the central atrium as an extension at the same level as existing galleries. The architectural language of the new build is in contrast to the existing, with the emphasis on articulated exposed structural soffits with integrated lighting and simple finishes within a red brick envelope, whereas the existing comprises heavy mouldings and ornate finishes internally, behind an eclectic and idiosyncratic Victorian Arts and Crafts façade. Sidell Gibson Architects are now preparing for the serious business of the commencement on site in March 2010. Watch this space.

No. 1 Kingsway, London

Crown House or No.1 Kingsway has for various reasons been ‘around’ for quite a few years as a project at Sidell Gibson. It started life as a town planning exercise when we produced a scheme for the previous site owners, Aberdeen Property Investors, for a larger scheme including the present corner site, No.1 Kingsway plus nos. 5 – 9 & no.11 Kingsway obtaining planning consent in March 2004. The scheme proposals, which retained the principal elevations to Kingsway & the Aldwych, included a large central atrium space with ground level retail use & 8 to 9 stories of commercial office space above with the heights determined by the retained facades. Subsequently, the site was sold on to the present owners, UK & European Properties Ltd who commissioned Sidell Gibson to obtain a revised consent for a smaller scheme for the corner site known as Crown House, No.1 Kingsway. They also purchased the adjoining building, no’s 5 – 9 Kingsway which were refurbished
for house tenants from Crown House so that vacant possession could be obtained for the redevelopment of the main corner site.
Crown House, is part of a group of buildings that form part of the only ‘Boulevard’ in London centered on the ‘Bush House’ the BBC's overseas broadcasting centre and were built in the 1920’s with a series of grand buildings along the Aldwych & up Kingsway with names, detailing & statues featuring Imperial symbols. For these historic reasons Westminster Planning department welcomed retaining the principle façades & reconstructing the rear facades as facsimiles of the originals with an addition of more office floor space & 2 additional floors for 7 high quality residential units with the original rotunda tower above the Kingsway corner made into a large 300 sq m duplex with spectacular views of the London skyline.

Planning consent was granted in summer 2007 & the Architectural team had developed the detail design sufficient for the Design & Build contractor, ISG, to start work with the demolition of the internal structure in January 2008 at which point Sidell Gibson & the structural Engineer’s, Thornton Tomasetti Postawa deHoog were contractually novated to ISG to complete the detail design. The rumbles of the economic crisis in the city & the ‘credit crunch’ then hit the project & led the client to extend the whole project by 1 year & re-tender significant parts of the work , the M&E services, to achieve ‘best value’ & delay the entry of the building onto the commercial market to hopefully, a more favorable time. It is now due for completion in June 2010.

The current progress on site has the piling & main post-tensioned concrete superstructure complete to
roof level & the commencement of the new brick & stone rear façades. Next to start is the steelwork for the 2 storey residential element on the top floors followed by the roofing and slate work mansards so that by the summer the building will be partially water-tight.
Parallel to this exercise, a separate Sidell Gibson team are working hard to complete the fit-out interior design for the roof top apartments which will have not only the views but also their own private landscaped courtyard with a small woodland setting, well 9 ‘pleached’ 5 meter high Holm Oaks.

MIPIM Future Project Award: One New Change

It has recently been announced that our project at One New Change for Land Securities has been placed top in the mixed use category in the AR/MIPIM Future Project Awards and has also been chosen as the overall winner of this prestigious competition. The building with its ground breaking concept design by Ateliers Jean Nouvel is currently moving towards completion.

Civic Trust Award for 7-10 Old Bailey, London

On March 12th at the Civic Trust Awards 2010 ceremony at St. David’s Hall, Liverpool, Giles Downes and Russ Dent collected on behalf of the practice, a commendation for this recently completed commercial development of 7-10 Old Bailey, London. The Civic Trust Awards are given to projects that have demonstrated a significant contribution to the quality and appearance of the environment and have a positive impact on the local community. This was the only privately owned commercial development granted an award.

Discover Greenwich Opening

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson formally opened the new Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre this week.

The new £6million pounds interpretation and education centre is within the converted Listed Grade II Pepys Building and environs, which is ideally sited at the threshold of the World Heritage Site, being located immediately opposite the Cutty Sark visitor attraction and adjacent to the main points of public arrival to Greenwich.

The project has three distinct elements: the Interpretative exhibition and Clore learning centre, the Greenwich Tourist Information Centre and a new Microbrewery with restaurant and café. Each function is required to operate both discretely but also as a whole. The adjacent newly landscaped courtyard and external approaches are also integrated into the proposals all of which are fully accessible. The project is supported with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund together with the Clore Duffield Foundation funding.

The design proposals have created a unified and coherent whole, which draws together the different parts in continuous space, unified by use of consistent materials, architectural detailing and colour themes. Similarly the design combines careful removal of extraneous building fabric such as the defunct switch rooms in the Brewery to expose historic brick vaulted structures and complimentary new interventions such as the new steel framed mezzanine space and staircase and sensitive restoration of spaces as for example the continuous roof light lantern and windows in the education room.

The result is architecture that provides seamless integration of new and existing fabric and direct, simple patterns of public circulation and flexible operational modes. Go to Sidell Gibson website.

Discover Greenwich
The Pepys Building, King William Walk, Greenwich, London SE10 9LW
Tel: +44 (0)20 8269 479

Monday, 1 March 2010

Three New Architectural Publications

Three new books were recently released on different aspects of Sidell Gibson Architects' activities:

Custom and Innovation – John Miller + Partners
Published by Black Dog Publishing
Buy it here.
A handsomely illustrated book of the practice, who are now working in association with Sidell Gibson Architects mainly on high profile cultural, arts and educational projects including renovation and extension of Listed Buildings.

Timber in Contemporary Architecture

Published by TRADA Technology Ltd in association with RIBA Publishing
Buy it here.

Authored by our senior partner Giles Downes, the book is a designers guide on use of timber in architecture, investigates materials, applications and innovations.
Giles is currently designing a zero carbon in use private residence using timber as the predominant material, as well as being the chair of judges for the Wood Awards.

Birmingham’s Victorian and Edwardian Architects
Published by Oblong Creative Ltd for the Birmingham and West Midlands Group of the Victorian Society
Buy it here.

The book covers the work of Leading Architectural practitioners in Birmingham from 1820’s to the First World War. It devotes a chapter to the respected Architects, Crouch Butler, who have practiced for over 125 years and have now reformed as Sidell Gibson Crouch Butler, based in Birmingham.