Extension project by Providence Row challenges preconceptions of homelessness
Featherstone Young were appointed by Providence Row to design a new arts and activity building as part of the Dellow Centre - their day care facility in Wentworth Street in London's East End. Providence Row is a homelessness charity that provides support to homeless people in Tower Hamlets (one of the UK's most deprived districts) and the City of London.
The new building enables Providence Row to operate a range of structured and meaningful activities for their users. The ground floor houses a bike workshop, enabling users to develop their skills and set them on the first steps towards employment. The first floor contains an art centre for visual and performing arts activities, allowing users to express themselves creatively and develop their artistic skills. 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 main feature of the building is its single-aspect angular façade. Likened to a mask the faceted blinkered windows take cues from the pod windows at Featherstone Young’s award-winning SERICC crisis centre in Essex, offering privacy to those within whilst also providing essential visibility for staff by designing a permeable façade. Above and below the main faceted level are vivid green and yellow perforated cladding panels to the ground floor workshop and the second floor. The building is topped with a colourful, irregular-shaped rooflight that provides a fun and lively aspect for those working in the surrounding higher buildings.
Conceptually, this mask elevation is intended by Featherstone Young to act as a visual metaphor for Providence Row’s users and to confront the invisibility of homeless people. The striking, colourful 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 large workshop doors open out onto the courtyard, bringing natural light into the workshop and encouraging activity to spill out onto the courtyard towards the main Dellow Centre building. Behind the workshop, large storage spaces have been created for clothing and equipment. Inside, the space is functional and robust - a design approach that is continued throughout the new
The client brief had originally been for a two-storey building, although Featherstone Young were also encouraged to explore options for three storeys in order to maximise use of the site. Planning consent was granted for three storeys after the trustees saw the additional possibilities of a higher building.