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