Case Study

Inner city sanctuary

Kaleidoscope Children and Young People's Centre

London / 2006


The aspiration of our client at the Kaleidoscope Centre for Children was to create a completely different sort of health building with the child at its heart. They wanted to house in one building all the services and agencies that parents might need, minimising the stress of visits for both children and their families, and encouraging the agencies to communicate and work together.  

In response we designed a building with generous spaces, which feels welcoming and supportive and can be navigated easily. It is a non-threatening environment that gives security and privacy at the same time as lifting the spirit. The huge advantage of this CABE-organised project was that we had access to the users of the building, the parents and children as well as the staff, from the start. This meant we could discuss ideas with them as well as our client, and listen carefully to their concerns.

The idea of a C-shaped building came directly from discussions with parents who emphasised the need to find their way around easily. From their desk opposite the entrance, reception staff can point out exactly where patients need to go as all departments are visible across the courtyard, and easily identifiable by the colour of the floor. The healthcare accommodation is housed on the ground and first floors, with the shared offices above.

The resulting building, which was runner up for the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building of the Year 2007, has been widely praised by those who use it, and is proof that by listening and designing intelligently we can resolve conflicting briefs and create a first class building.






The Centre was built for the Lewisham Primary Care Trust, the result of the first competition to be organised by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which we won. The competition was aimed at architects who did not necessarily have particular expertise in healthcare.

The five-storey building enables diverse departments from Lewisham Primary Care Trust, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, London Borough of Lewisham Social Care and Health, Education and voluntary sector services to work together. These services were originally scattered across the borough; today Kaleidoscope houses 260 staff working in 23 teams. The central courtyard is surrounded by consultation rooms and treatment rooms, as well as offices and informal spaces for patients and their families.

Kaleidoscope is a significant community building for Lewisham, contributing to the regeneration of an area of London which has a high concentration of low-income families and a rich ethnic and cultural diversity.






How we worked

The Lewisham Primary Care Trust was a visionary client with an enlightened approach to providing health and social care. Much of our work for them had to do with negotiating with the different staff teams, talking to all of them and working out how best to serve each team, at the same time as encouraging them to share common spaces.

We had to establish the right balance of enclosed offices to open plan, and sufficient storage and break-out space. Eventually we convinced all parties to adopt predominantly open plan offices with shared common facilities including one large common room and a shared library, instead of giving each team its own. They immediately felt the benefits of this approach and continue to do so.

The traditionally procured contract was brought in on time and under budget.





Making it happen

The Centre is intentionally iconic, with its curved courtyard glazing and colourful elevations. It is meant to stand out on the street, to look welcoming and engage with the urban realm. It is designed with open circulation and orientated around a courtyard garden, sheltered by a canopy of birch trees. The shallow depth of the rooms allows for natural lighting and ventilation, essential for a sense of well-being.

An advantage of the C-shape configuration is that the building faces the street while still providing the necessary privacy within consulting rooms. The central courtyard, which was not in the original brief, provides a respite area for children, families and staff. It opens the Centre onto the wide Rushey Green and makes it a more engaging building. Transparent glazing secures the garden, yet offers views into the heart of the building.



The majority of specialist consultation and treatment facilities needed to be on the ground and first floor level, which meant increasing the plan and extending into the garden. The benefit of this was to decrease the scale of the building to those sitting in the garden, and by greening the roof of the ground floor the view from the upper floors is not compromised.  The design of the building has brought disparate teams together naturally, by using shared breakout spaces and encouraging chance encounters.

Although built to an exacting budget, quality was maintained throughout the building. The project exemplifies highly innovative sustainable systems including in-slab cooling.  Although Kaleidoscope is pioneering, it has been built at a comparable cost to traditional healthcare buildings, highlighting the fact that the best architectural design can be achieved whilst remaining cost-effective.



‘The best thing since sliced bread. I call it a sanctuary – a place which exudes respect for children, young people and families who come here and to those who work here.’

Lynne Harris, Team Manager – Children with Disabilities Service, London Borough of Lewisham.

‘We are absolutely delighted that our long held dream, to build a high quality integrated centre for children and young people has become a reality. This is an amazing building, impressively and imaginatively designed, which will make an enormous difference to our staff, those in our partner agencies, and the families using it.’

Brian Lymbery, Chair of Lewisham Primary Care Trust 2002-2007.

'We were very impressed with this simple, economic and elegant design. It was felt that the concept expressed real confidence. The jury congratulated the team on having the guts to present such a deceptively easy proposal. The use of natural light is very good and ensures that everyone will benefit from the presence of the garden and green roof... The jury was convinced by the team’s approach to internal orientation. The integration of colour into this plan was also well received.’

Competition jury assessment


‘Another example of how effective the centre has become is the natural population of the library area. Without any discussion practitioners have been keen to share their professional journals and books with others in the library without any discussion, prompting or waiting for arrangements the management committee were planning to make. The centre paves the way not only towards multiagency working but true integrated teams.’

Manager – Lewisham Information Sharing & Assessment Team, LBL (LISA)





Lewisham Primary Care Trust









Our Role

Architect And Lead Consultant


Civic Trust Awards, Kaleidoscope Children and Young People’s Centre
RIBA London Awards, Kaleidoscope Children and Young People’s Centre
Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award, Kaleidoscope Children and Young People’s Centre
BCI Awards, Kaleidoscope Children and Young People’s Centre
Building Better Healthcare Awards, Kaleidoscope Children and Young People’s Centre
RICS Award for Community Benefit, Kaleidoscope Children and Young People’s Centre

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