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PRS’ Black Cultural Archives opens doors

Richard Waite, Architect's Journal

Pringle Richards Sharratt’s [PRS] competition-winning Black Cultural Archives scheme in Brixton, south London, has finally completed.
The practice landed the £3.5million project, which has transformed the derelict Grade II-listed Raleigh Hall and added a new limestone-clad wing, nearly nine years ago.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the scheme stalled after contractor Killby & Gayford went under in 2012. The museum and cultural centre is next door to Gross Max’s Windrush Square public realm scheme which completed in 2010.

The building features a library, gallery, meeting space and café, and is home to the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) which documents the lives of people of African descent in the UK.

The architect’s view
‘A new loadbearing limestone wing is expressed as a beautifully crafted stone box placed safely above the ground. This houses the archive store and a dedicated, flexible exhibition space on the ground floor. Designed to the highest Government Indemnity standards it allows the BCA to be considered as a recognised depository for artefacts of national or international importance. All these areas are provided with high standards of environmental conditions and security.

‘A glazed connection between the listed building and the new wing allows the two forms to be clearly expressed, with the new wing offering a frame for the restored stucco facades. A new courtyard has been created in front of the central six bays, the glazed heritage doors of the café opening directly onto it. This creates an external event area and a focal point for BCA’s activities. This can be linked seamlessly to the public realm space of Windrush Square when the entrance gates are opened. This connection is echoed in further design elements such as the large shop front windows, which deliberately draw attention to the building. It moves the square’s centre of gravity towards BCA and attracts interest from the well-used west facing boulevard with the popular Ritzy Cinema and Tate Library.

‘Finally, the building completes Windrush, Square giving solidity and permanence to its south end. The square is a new and significant piece of public realm for Lambeth and a flagship project of the mayor of London’s Great Outdoors Programme. The Brixton Central Square project was launched in 2000 by the London Borough of Lambeth in association with the Brixton Area Forum.’

Project data
Type of Project: Cultural and heritage Contract Duration: Rooff’s Construction Contract ran from January 2013 – May 2014. Rooff were selected as preferred contractor in the late summer of 2012. Work remained to remediate the site following the administration of Killby & Gayford (Administration in April 2012) which required also some value engineering. ‘Real’ construction start was in January 2013

Funding: Various – the main funder was the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other contributors were: London Borough of Lambeth; Greater London Authority; Biffa Award; The Linbury Trust; Esmee Fairbairn Foundation; Foyle Foundation; Garfield Weston Foundation; J Paul Getty Jnr and the Charles Hayward Foundation
Tender Date: Original main tender, June-August 2011
Re-tender: May-July 2012 (Lambeth Council went back to the four remaining original tenderers)
Start on Site Date: Various. PRS carried out an
Enabling Works contract [strip out and further investigation]. This was followed by an initial start by Killby & Gayford who went into administration in the spring of 2012. PRS went back to the original tenderers a selected Rooff Ltd who eventually made a meaningful start in January 2013
Enabling Works Contract: Cuttle Construction, January-April 2011; Killby & Gayford, November 2011 (administration in April 2012); Rooff, January 2013
Gross Internal Floor Area: 916m² (as stated on EPC Certificate)
Form of Contract: NEC3 ECC Option B (NEC 3
with Bills of Quantities)
Total Cost: £3.5million
Annual CO2 Emission: See copy of EPC Certificate attached (attached)