British architecture studio Featherstone Young just completed a new building for a day centre in London's East End. The Dellow Day Centre, run by charity Providence Row, provides essential services such as food, clothing and showers.
The new building allows Providence Row to operate a range of structured and meaningful activities for their users. The ground floor will house a bike workshop, enabling users to develop their skills and set them on the first steps towards employment. The first floor will contain an art centre for visual and performing arts activities. Providence Row will use the top floor for office space, while other parts of the building will contain storage and archive facilities for the charity.
The architects sought to create a thoughtful yet functional building that uses its landlocked site to its full advantage, in order to accommodate as many uses as possible in the limited space available. Because the building (on the site of a former storage building) faces the main day centre across an under-used courtyard, Featherstone Young also sought to animate the courtyard and improve connections and flow between the two buildings on the site as a whole.
The main feature of the building is its single-aspect angular façade. The faceted blinkered windows offer privacy to those within whilst also providing essential visibility for staff by designing a permeable façade. The main faceted level is cladded in perforated panels in bright hues of green and yellow. The building is topped with a an irregular-shaped yellow rooflight that provides a lively aspect for those working in the surrounding higher buildings.
According to the architects, the building "challenges passers-by to ignore what was previously an anonymous space, while its appearance is a visual reminder that homeless people, like the new building created to serve them, can have great depth of character and dignity. "
At ground floor level, the workshop doors open out onto the courtyard, allowing for natural light to enter the space and encouraging activity to spill outside. Behind the workshop, large storage spaces have been created for clothing and equipment.
A simple staircase leads from the ground floor to the first floor, where the main space is the art studio. Here the large full-height timber-framed windows flood the room with natural light. The space can also be fully blacked out for film screenings. Other spaces on this level provide further storage and archive facilities for Providence Row.
On the upper level, an open plan office space leads onto an external terrace, where a zig-zag balcony follows the line of the first floor windows. Like the ground floor, a colourful façade gives this level a lively feel, and the palette is repeated in bold vertical stripes along the length of the external wall. A small private meeting room is lit by the yellow rooflight.
Throughout the building, an emphasis has been placed on creating a series of robust, flexible and functional internal spaces. Lighting and services are simple and basic, and the building is designed to be easy to use and maintain.