Kaleidoscope Children and Young People’s Centre

A Green Heart for Wellbeing

The courtyard is the building’s heart, an orientation space that symbolically places the children at the centre of the services provided. Accommodation in a C shape wraps around it, reflecting the model of wrap around service putting the needs of each child first. The garden of silver birch extend outwards to the trees on Rushey Green, tying it into the local community and urban context, with a green roof covered in periwinkle extending the garden upwards to the staff offices on the upper floors.

‘vHH….won the high-profile CABE competition, rose to the bureaucratic and architectural challenges of the project…Kaleidoscope comes straight out of that shadowy world between purpose and image where architecture has to stake its claim as a contributor to public service.’

Jeremy Melvin AD

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The concept appears simple, yet belies the complexity of the operations and the coordination of the healthcare requirements that need to function. Many of the children need multiple services and finding their way around easily and being in touch with the outside was picked up directly from a comment by a parent at the first briefing, about getting lost in narrow dark hospital corridors. The garden courtyard is a focal point for way-finding, bringing natural light and nature in, and contributing to the wellbeing of everyone using the building.

This is a truly amazing building, impressively and imaginatively designed, which will make an enormous difference to our staff and the families using it.  It marks a new standard that all newly commissioned buildings should aspire to.


  • Project Details

    • Location: London
      Client: Lewisham Primary Care Trust
      Area: 2313 m2
  • Project Awards

    • Winner - RIBA London Award
    • Runner-up - RICS Community Benefit Award
    • Highly Commended - Building Better Healthcare Awards
    • Shortlisted - Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award
    • Shortlisted - BCI Award
    • Commendation - Civic Trust Awards

Kaleidoscope is the first centre of its kind in England to provide such a comprehensive range of integrated services for children and young people who have specialist health or mental health, social care or educational needs; bringing together 23 services, including 250 professionals who specialise in working with children. At a construction cost of £13.5m, equivalent to less than £2k/m2, it represents excellent value for money.

Families and young people were closely involved in the design and development of the new centre, which was called an example of excellence in design and process by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). Groups of parents and staff were involved in assessing the designs and contributing their designs.

“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, Kaleidoscope

An innovative system (at the time only the second installation in the UK) of pipework embedded in the exposed concrete slab ensures the building stays warm in winter and cool in summer. The pipes circulate warm or cool water in response to outside temperatures and the extensive surface area means the temperature does not need to be very different to modify conditions. Therefore, it is very energy efficient, protecting the building against high internal loads and rising city temperatures, with a high quality environment for staff, patients, and visitors.

Project Timeline

  • 2003
    Competition concept sketch
  • Stakeholder consultation
  • Public presentation sketches

    Artist view out over internal courtyard

  • Planning consent received

    CGIs showing the building in situ

  • On site - Construction

    The building takes shape, wrapping around the garden courtyard

  • 2007