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This commission for a new community building was won in an open RIBA competition. Public consultation followed, informing the design of the building which responds to the immediate context of Parsons Heath and its topography.
The building seen from across the rooftops of Colchester (Photo: Edmund Sumner)
The building functions as a community café and as the base for specific health, training and childcare services, and is also used for activities and events such as parties and performances. Local community organizations have permanent offices in the building, while an "incubator" unit provides space for small businesses.
The more robust external elevations seen from the Heath (Photo: Edmund Sumner)
Secure entrance from informal courtyard prior to completion of landscaping (Photo: Edmund Sumner)
The building is set over two stories, with the ground floor at two different levels to follow the topography of the site. Its dynamic undulating form creates an identifiable entrance, encouraging local enjoyment of the new facility and the Heath beyond. The shape of the building envelops a large existing oak tree, which provides solar shading and creates an informal ,west facing courtyard separated from the Heath, with a series of external spaces between entrance, community garden, and secure play area. Two highly glazed main entrances open onto a central café with generous views through the building. This space contains a reception and forms a hub to the community spaces at ground floor, the childcare spaces at lower ground floor, and the office accommodation at first floor.
View through entrance and Café space into Heath (Photo: Edmund Sumner)
Detail of timber-clad triangulated roof (Photo: Edmund Sumner)
Technical considerations informed the development of the design from an early stage, alongside this essential social dimension. The particular form of the building was developed through a series of model studies using an analysis of views and movement on the site. The innovative timber-clad triangulated roof can be seen from above from a number of the surrounding roads and green spaces, creating a local landmark and beacon. The design emphasizes simple sustainability through flexibility and dual use for maximum economy and energy efficiency, with natural ventilation, natural day lighting, and sustainably sourced materials.
Shared stair and ramp parallel to fall in external landscape (Photo: Edmund Sumner)
Interior of community room showing roof light and views into landscape (Photo: Edmund Sumner)
The finished building is a result of close collaboration throughout the design team and project team. The innovative geometry of the building created a number of potentially challenging junctions and details. In particular, the innovative timber detailing to the rain screen includes sharp mitred corners in complex three-dimensional junctions between planes and with components such as windows and roof lights.
View towards informal courtyard around Oak tree (Photo: Edmund Sumner)