Crompton Street

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Client: Westminster City Council - Youth Offenders & Looked After Children Services

Construction Costs: £350,000

Completion: April 2015

Structural EngineerHLS Consulting

M&E EngineerENG Design

ContractorHeeran Construction

The Youth Offenders and Looked After Children’ Centre in Westminster has been transformed on a tight budget through the creative intervention of Cazenove Architect’s new entrance and reception areas.

Tardis like, the new entrance has more to it than is immediately apparent.  The extension embodies confidence in the power of empathy and connectivity expressed through its architecture.

The centre previously suffered from extremes of antisocial behaviour and exclusion.  At the intersection of five areas controlled by local gangs, the staff working at the centre were regularly confronted with attacks and knifings both inside and at the threshold to the building.   The bleak and inhospitable building, designed in the 1970s as a children’s home, offered no sense of welcome or safety.  Its front entrance was both alienating and dangerous.  The staff working inside had no ability to control who entered the building and no way of appeasing dangerous situations.  Westminster Council Staff were put at risk on a daily basis.

The public space to the outside of the building also became a place of danger and alienation, hazardous to neighbours, local residents and the pupils of the local Paddington Green Primary School.   The receding and sunken building offered places to hide creating a frightening and alienating experience on the public street.

Cazenove’s design for new entrance and reception areas sought to address these acute and urgent issues.   The new entrance porch brings the building up to the pavement edge.   The extension creates a bold and attractive statement, offering views from the interior on to the street and surrounding area whilst not encouraging passers by to loiter and stare in.  The black steel cladding is visually contrasting to the red brick building, robust and well detailed.  It does not patronise or demean the clients of the centre, but offers them a serious, safe place where their problems can be addressed.

Externally the entrance extension has given the public realm a feeling of cohesion and focus. A new sense of place and belonging achieved by a simple and small intervention.

Clients and staff became involved with the design process. A color scheme design competition was held between the youngsters to encourage involvement.

Lifting the architectural quality of a building previously listed for demolition. Users reported a sense of respect having been given a better environment to grow and develop under the care of the Children Looked After service and the Youth Offenders Care Team.