Colour Case Study #4

Monday 24 Oct 2011

LA architects leave their colourful mark on Lewisham's town centre redevelopment

The south-London borough of Lewisham is the proud new owner of a large-scale town centre development headed by talented architecture studio LA architects with developers Barratt Homes and Lewisham Council. A thriving, close-knit community, the borough’s high street was badly damaged during World War II and didn’t fully recover until the mid 1950s; however a full revitalisation of the town centre is now underway with colour playing a major role in the rebranding of the area.

A thorough public consultation process was undertaken by those at the helm of the project resulting in a stunning glass-panel screen for the project’s centerpiece (a leisure centre) comprised of ten various shades. Mike Lawless, Director at LA architects, explains: “LA architects met with the community who asked for more than a boring ascetic aesthetic or tedious blocks. For them the building is rising with a façade of 10 different colours and 1,800 coloured glass panels laid out by artist Phil Coy.

“The idea started with a camouflage approach and ended with a building fabric that is a work of art in itself. The working relationship between Barratt the developer, Lewisham Council, LA architects and Phil Coy has been one of collective drive to find a solution that can bring joy to the people locally. Colour and art in 3D has combined with a functional building to create this joy.

“Colour is just another building element: another pallet from which we can choose if we are brave enough to do so. The coloured glass walls will be lit with LEDs and controlled so that during the hours of darkness colour will play a different game; a more subtle game but one that still reflects the site and the people who will inhabit it.”

This process of combining architecture with public art is a growing trend that we are seeing take off around the world. Last month Vice President of John Portman & Associates, Lell Barnes III penned an article for WAN on the importance of artwork in public spaces, reaffirming the importance of collaborations such as that seen at Lewisham’s Loampit Vale Leisure Centre.

Aside from LA architects’ BREEAM Excellent leisure centre, the major redevelopment includes 788 new homes (149 of which are affordable), commercial, business and retail outlets, units for creative industries, open public spaces and piazzas, an energy centre, and green roof systems for sustainability. Completion is scheduled for June 2015.

To finalise, Lawless references a phrase coined by Coy during the design development which eloquently captures the significance of colour in architecture: “Colour is a cry to our earliest childlike senses, even when set within the strictures of a modernist grid it negates form and challenges spatial relations.”

WAN is now accepting entries for the inaugural Colour in Architecture Award. Click here to find out more or contact Amy Knight at amy.knight@wantoday.comwith any queries.

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