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Photograph: Alan Williams

Lewisham Southwark College gets a £40m redevelopment

Richard Hopkinson Architects joined forces with Platform 5 Architects to create a huge refurbishment project for the college

Posted by Charley Rogers | March 23, 2017 | Bricks & mortar

Richard Hopkinson Architects and Platform 5 Architects have teamed up to redevelop the campus of Lewisham Southwark College Waterloo, in a £40million project.

The expansive two-phase project was carried out whilst the college remained open, and embodies a vision of the college as professional environment, with visually transparent learning arranged around an inspiring flexible space that supports participation and performance, and encourages a strong sense of community among staff and students. The brief was to create a self-funding project, maximise grant opportunities, and deliver a new hub and image for the college, which was delivered through the vast improvement in facilities for which the refurbishment allowed.

Located on a prominent site opposite the Palestra Building, the development makes a significant contribution to the urban setting, and provides the college campus with a fresh image and impressive new facilities. Richard Hopkinson and Peter Allen worked with the new management of the college to create a home for a revitalised vision for teaching and learning.

Mr Allen, director at Platform 5 Architects, commented: "This is a significant achievement for our joint team. Through a close and productive relationship with the college, and a successful working partnership, we are proud to have delivered a building that is inspiring and flexible, and creates a fine landmark for a key central London location."

The project involved invigorating the outside space of the college, including a series of new public routes and green spaces in the form of roof gardens. The first phase of the building redevelopment was a refurbishment of an existing wing and entrance, which was completed in 2015. This phase provided 2,047 square metres of education floor space through a significant remodelling of a tired and outdated teaching block.

Surrounding design has been given heavy consideration, with the larger elements of the new block stepped back to mirror the profile of the older terraces opposite. 

An existing courtyard was also transformed into a bright and flexible atrium space, while a suite of state-of-the-art teaching and breakout spaces were created in the refurbished block. A colourful and structural element was injected into the building via a ribbon-like steel staircase alongside the existing teaching block, articulating the wall and improving the efficiency of the refurbished areas. Clad in ceramic tiles and accented with gold aluminium fins, the block creates an attractive local landmark that contrasts with its earlier drab appearance, and marks the entrance to the college more clearly.

The second phase of the development included a 7,700 sq.m new block, comprising of six storeys and incorporating specialist teaching areas and open learning spaces, all of which are linked back to the central atrium. The first floor of the building also houses roomy balconies, which can be used by students and staff alike for informal study or teaching, and are connected to the atrium via an elegant wooden staircase. The ground floor of the atrium has also been expanded to include additional teaching rooms and a bright new café area for staff, students and visitors.

The teaching spaces in this new block are fully equipped with specialist facilities including recording studios, music rehearsal rooms, and a suite of dance studios, all of which support the focus on digital learning, fashion, design, and the performing arts. The students at the college have also responded favourably to their new surroundings, with the double-height windows in the fashion studio already being taken as display space for student projects. 

As well as views into the atrium, the new block provides attractive views across the atrium’s angular roof. At the top of the new block, students can enjoy access to a large roof garden, while a second floor terrace is a peaceful open-air retreat for staff.

The rear of the building has been developed with consideration to residential neighbours given, ensuring high levels of natural light within the college, without blocking adjacent views. Surrounding design has also been given heavy consideration, with the larger elements of the new block stepped back to mirror the profile of the older terraces opposite. 

Carole Kitching, Principal and CEO at Lewisham Southwark College, is delighted with the development, commenting: "The flexibility of the space and the potential and varied uses of the atrium have delivered the building we need to encourage businesses and community groups to use and feel part of the college, centring us at the heart of our community. The mix of specialist workshops, classroom space and breakout areas reflect our desire to deliver the best possible innovative and aspirational experience for FE and HE students."

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