Friar Park Millennium Centre

The proposals aim to significantly improve a users experience of the building, making it light, open and welcoming whilst transforming the internal spaces to create new loose fit and multi purpose spaces that will not only suit the current needs of the community but will be sufficiently flexible to still be well used and vibrant well into the future.

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The original community centre building on this site was constructed during the 1970’s and is typical of many local public buildings of its era, comprising of plain facing brickwork walls, unified window panels and a flat bituminous felt roof. The size of the community accommodation was significantly increased when a larger multi-purpose building was constructed and linked to the original centre. The project included a sports hall, with changing facilities, meeting rooms and office accommodation for multiple agencies including Sandwell Homes, health outreach and the Police.

Since its completion changes to both national and local political policy has meant that the agencies which were once located at the centre have moved or scaled back their operations. The result of these changes has been that spaces that were designed for a specific tenant or purpose have been left vacant or under-utilised due to their inflexibility. In addition to this lack of flexibility the existing centre had other problems which limit the quality of space offered to its users: the entrance is small, unwelcoming and lacks visibility, the central circulation spaces receive little or no daylight and are dark and narrow, there is limited connection between the internal community spaces and the playing fields and external environment to the rear of the building which means that these spaces do not benefit the users of the building and are also under used.

Our feasibility study explored how these architectural design issues could be overcome and how the existing building could be reformatted to create bright, open and flexible spaces for community use in the future. The design seeks to work with the building and rationalise the existing spaces, opening up connections between the different zones at the heart of the centre whilst significantly improving the buildings entrance. A new dynamic triangular roof floats above the entrance with its south east corner inclined to allow natural light to flood the Entrance Piazza and encourage passers by to see the activities taking place, whilst also strengthening the centre’s presence in the street.

Enhanced visual and physical connection is produced between the main internal spaces. This connection is reinforced by defining four distinct zones including two Entrance Piazzas, a Community Piazza and the main Community Hall.

These become easily legible allowing users to orientate themselves, reducing wasted space by giving circulation areas a dual use and giving the centre spatial cohesion.

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