LONDON – Led by British architects Russel Curtis, Dieter Kleiner and Tim Riley, RCKa – an up-and-coming architectural practice based in London, United Kingdom – has recently been involved in the design and construction of The New Generation Youth and Community Centre in Lewisham, South London, a project which provides support and services to young locals and performs as a multi-purpose venue where all sorts of festivities and activities can take place.

True to the studio’s interest in collaborative commissions involving the public, the architects laid out a flexible programme, grappling with issues of identity, social needs and sustainability. The design, as it becomes an integral part of its context, is responsive and thus manages to cope with its temporal reality.

The project articulates its programme around a dynamic central foyer, stirring valuable social interactions. Offering a wide range of settings, the building encompasses a broad view of amenities – such as a kitchen, a café, gaming and dancing areas, a recording studio, a conference room and administrative facilities – designed to accommodates people of all ages. It also aims to create a variety of undefined spaces, within which the users can express or shape new spatial compositions, according to their needs or preferences.

With a triple-height garden, conveniently located on its eastern side and functioning as a buffer between the calmer spaces and the lively play area, the project features a skeleton framework of cross-laminated wood, which can easily be seen through the ribbed, translucent polycarbonate cladding. The structure is punctuated with large openings, framing the vicinity, allowing natural light to bathe its welcoming and tastefully-finished interiors and conveying a strong architectural identity to the building. At street level, the elevations embody a more sturdy character, as pre-cast concrete panels – moulded so as to produce the same undulating pattern that can be found on the polycarbonate cloaking the building’s upper part – are most likely set to avoid damage through vandalism or from passing vehicles.

The community centre designed by RCKa definitely participates in creating favourable conditions for the development of bright young minds and successfully engages architecture as an actual catalyst for social changes. This vision, once clarified and agreed upon by the public, articulates a genuine understanding of the people’s needs and harnesses the creativity and talent of members of the community to create an intelligent and context-specific design.

Photos Ioana Marinescu and Jakob Spriestersbach