- Original design
- Architecture PLB, 2010
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme in July.
A feasibility study showed that the Dagenham Heathway and local area were in need of regeneration. As part of this, the project became the start of this regeneration in the area by providing a modern public building delivered to a high design quality, on an important corner site. The design of the new community facilities needed to be integrated into the fabric of the street and the evolving public realm improvements of the town centre.
The building works on two levels, both as a ‘Gateway’ to the town from the south, and as a strategic part of the regeneration of the Heathway’s ‘Green Bridge’ which passes over the District Rail line, and visibly terminates this green bridge when viewed from the exit of the train station at the crest of the Heathway. This is achieved by splitting the massing of the building clearly into two parts, one containing the Library and ‘Customer-First’ facilities and the other containing the accommodation.
The library and ‘Customer-First’ facilities are both accessed by a unified entrance on the open corner of the building and form an integrated part of the public realm by locking into a new ‘Gateway Square’.
This new ‘Gateway Square’ offers an attractive place to meet people and helps establish the Gateway to the Heathway as part of the Mayor’s designated 100 public spaces. It is the bringing together of the street environment and the community facilities into a whole continuous environment which is crucial to achieving a successful centre were people can meet, learn and relax.
The west façade of the new centre which is clearly visible from the station to the north and on approach from the south is generously glazed with the west elevation and the entrance elevation at the corner of the building providing a ‘seamless’ view from the street directly into the double height volume of the library from which all functions are visible and clearly defined on entrance.
The facilities are arranged to make visitors to the centre welcome and to provide a seamless transition from the ‘Customer-First’ facilities to the library.
All of the functions are laid out before the visitor on the ground floor and an open mezzanine, with a glass feature lift and grand main staircase situated near the entrance and façade providing a clear circulation route around the library.
On entering the building at its centre, the visitor is welcomed by a help desk, providing assistance should it be needed. From here the plan fans out to provide both the ‘Customer-First’ facilities to the right and the library to the left. The space is continuous, arranged in a manner which would also be conducive to library use, allowing a mixed use of the space at different times of the day, such as ‘reading-circles' in the lounge of the ‘Customer-First’ facilities in the evening when the space is not in use. Indeed a member of staff may also meet a member of the public at the coffee corner of the library or in the reception area.
A defined security line is provided within the building, however this is not obvious to visitors, helping to maintain a non-confrontational environment.
The plan is provided in a manner which fosters the Borough’s aim to provide excellent customer services in an open, friendly and ‘transparent’ community facility which promotes high aspirations, and active street frontage and complete integration with the public space inside and out.
Also important in the creation of a truly multi-use building is the integration of housing, which is placed above the community facilities, with access to the private realm placed away from the public entrance of the community facilities.
Existing materials in the nearby vicinity include brick, tile, render and slate as well as aluminium metal cladding to the rear for the shopping mall access building. The new scheme takes this into account and provides a strong, light and dynamic building that incorporates colour to bring a unique, modern building to the local area.
The main accommodation levels of the building are clad in white render. Where there are entrance points to the flats above, these areas are recessed slightly and demarked with a coloured render, which has the advantage of allowing the access points to the building to be visually readable as well as breaking down the horizontal length of the building.
A robust base, which marries in with the external landscape, is created with a red brick at plinth level. This gives a two toned effect under light that will allow the upper levels of the building to rest on a ‘solid’ base. By matching the external landscaping design, the building becomes part of the new urban look for the high street.
One of the main requirements of the façade was to present an interesting and attractive appearance that will bring people into the building to use the library and civic facilities on offer.
A mixture of mesh screens and coloured balconies on the façade run around the building to give a strong form that will be distinctive from the tube exit and from the streets to the south.
To give the apartments the greatest possible views and access to the outside, each one has been provided with a projecting coloured glass balcony. The main entrance to the library from the Heathway is marked with large doors that are set within floor to ceiling glazing. A projecting ‘box’ defines the reading room within the library over the entrance. This is a strong architectural element designed to give the building presence on the street and allow it to be seen from the tube station and Heathway, and further to the south from residential areas.
For the two library levels the glazing has ‘floor to ceiling’ glazing which creates a visual connection between the outside public space and the inside semi public space.
The building occupies an important location in the Heathway and accommodates two very different functions with opposite public faces.
The imposing size of the building signifies its importance in the townscape whist the projecting library with its full height glazing makes an appropriately welcoming and accessible statement that is directly linked to the square and the wider public realm.
On the first day of opening:
- over 2,000 people visited the library
- over 1,000 items were issued to members
- 150 people joined the library
The One Stop Shop has also provided a much needed community resource – between 250 and 350 people visit the facility each day, for advice on issues ranging from parking to housing benefits.
"We are extremely pleased with the development which has
proved very popular with users ... Comments received by users and staff have been overwhelmingly positive … The striking building fulfilled the Council’s brief in terms of creating a landmark building signalling investment and regeneration of the borough’s second largest town centre."
David Harley, Economic Development Manager
LB of Barking and Dagenham