Platform Arts

Converting the listed Hornsey Road Baths

Platform is a performing arts centre in Islington, created within the listed former laundry of the Hornsey Road Baths following the construction of residential development on the rest of the site.

Islington Councils vision was to make an inclusive and welcoming centre that leveraged the performing arts to make a real difference to the lives and prospects of young people in the area, raising their ambitions and aspirations, and opening up new and exciting opportunities to them.

Critical to the success of the scheme was our client group, The Young Advisors, a group of local young people employed by the Council and mentored by the Sorrell Foundation to act as client. They clarified what it was that they wanted and needed, which was more space to make a noise, and less of the ‘quiet’ space specified in the original brief. Our complete engagement with them, and their intelligence and thoughtfulness, resulted in an extraordinary community facility.

“The Architects have created an extraordinary building that doesn’t patronise its users.  It is light, airy, welcoming and through its design creates an environment that actively stimulates creativity and provides the opportunity to unlock young peoples potential.  The spaces created within the building promote dialogue between the arts sector and young people in the borough.

As a result of the design teams commitment to community engagement, young people feel that they have ownership of the facility, it feels safe.  It feels like home.   In summary, and to quote the poem created by the young advisors as part of the consultation process, Platform is ‘not like anything you have ever seen before.”Pete Courtie – Arts and Cultural Development Manager, Islington Council

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The Diving Girl on the side of the former Hornsey baths entrance building is a cherished North London landmark, but the building holding it was a challenging candidate for conversion into a welcoming community asset.

As the former laundry block, behind the handsome public facades were a series of varied industrial spaces, often windowless, with no obvious entrance, and minimal circulation. Our immediate focus was to create legible spaces that were welcoming and inclusive, encouraged social interaction and provided industry-standard performing arts facilities.

The London Borough of Islington (LBI) delivered this unusual project by involving young people throughout the whole process to an unprecedented extent.  Ably stewarded by LBI’s project lead, Rachel Egan, the whole team committed to a whole-hearted engagement with young people throughout, from design to commissioning, most obviously represented by the Young Advisors. Acting as our client, they visited precedents with us, explored the brief and gave feedback to our ideas as they developed.

The initial LBI brief identified two main performance spaces, a semi-basement lower space, intended to be for strongly amplified performance, and the space above this, which had a lightweight pitched roof, envisaged by LBI for acoustic sets, spoken word and drama, so that this would not disturb the adjacent residents. The Young Advisors strongly challenged this assumption, persuading the Council that the budget and programme should be recast to allow for a new acoustically heavyweight roof, creating an upper performance space with complete flexibility.

vHH has delivered an excellent piece of work and worked closely with stakeholders including young people, the consultation work they have been involved with has been extensive, they have been outstanding in their attitude and in understanding and reflecting the needs of the project in the design.

They have worked closely with the project managers and contractors to ensure the contractor delivers the clients requirements and maintains a high level of quality and finish in the design. Proactive, responsive and intuitive.

Remaining good humoured, professional and positive through a range of challenges on the project, they have delivered a truly exceptional space which is an incredible asset for young people.”Rachel Egan – London Borough of Islington

  • Project Details

    • Location: London
      Client: London Borough of Islington
      Area: 1310 m2
  • Project Awards

    • Runner Up, Community Benefit - RICS Awards
    • Community Recognition - Civic Trust Awards

We then worked with the acoustician and engineers to decide how to provide better acoustic isolation, without unnecessary loss of historic fabric, to restrict break-out noise sufficiently. With the revised brief, and the detailed roof proposals, we were able to persuade the conservation officer and the then English Heritage that it would be acceptable.

Our successful achievement of Listed Building and Planning Consents removed the acoustic constraints in both spaces and maximised the capability of the venues.

The most striking transformation of the building was to carve out space for a new stair, with a strongly contemporary entrance off the internal courtyard of the development. As you arrive the welcome desk is part of the small social enterprise café servery, providing immediate welcome and minimising the staffing requirements.

“The design sensitively incorporates elements of the original building into a modern space with fantastic facilities in which young people can explore their creativity and thrive.”Civic Trust Awards testimonial for Platform 2013

The generous stair, rising up from the café at the entrance level, with various breakout areas above and below, acts as route, foyer and lightwell, maximining opportunities for informal socialising and bringing natural light deep into the heart of the building. Breakout spaces lead to the variety of counselling and advice spaces that underpin Platforms purpose.

Throughout the design process we worked with Studio Morag Myerscough to create an overlay of signage and graphics throughout Platform, to add a sense of its new purpose. Her colourful graphics use the words of the Young Advisors, and their vibrancy and colour adds a further dimension to our imaginative transformation of the industrial space, crowned by new rooftop sign inspired by the Diving Girl and signalling its new creative purpose.

Islington contains some of the most deprived wards in London.  Platform provides a high-quality performance venue specifically for young people, with the object of making a real and lasting difference to their lives and prospects, both by raising their ambitions and aspirations, and by opening up opportunities for them.

Project Timeline

  • 2009

    Consulting with young advisor stakeholder group

  • Concept design
  • Design development
  • Construction
  • Young building users perform as part of the opening ceremony

  • 2011