Built in the early 1960s on the busy Finchley Road, a former post office at the corner of a parade of shops and flats has been transformed into the Hive, where young people can access counselling, sexual health services, employment advice and training opportunities, as well as study, take part in activities or simply hang out. Ash Sakula was commissioned to identify a location for the new centre and to collaborate closely with young people to design and deliver the project. As well as rejuvenating a run-down building and bringing it into community use, the project has bolstered local young people through their involvement in the process and given them a much-needed place to go, at a stage in their lives when they might otherwise fall into the gap between child and adult services.
The ground floor reception space is open and inviting, with the sill of the front window lowered, a green-curtained cinema area, comfortable seating and enclosed meeting spaces. In the shared spaces of the lower floor, which holds e-learning facilities and private consultation rooms, co-working tables and a large, family-style kitchen area engender a hospitable informality. An important third environment has been created by modifying doors and windows on the south-facing, rear facade and turning a joyless concrete yard into a decked garden, where three fruiting trees - apple, cherry and fig - introduce shade, seasonality and habitat and deep planting boxes give young people the means to get involved in growing and tending produce together.
Working with a board of young people, we transformed this drab and unloved shop into a place that is appealing and accessible to young people. The project’s intention was to help young people overcome their natural reluctance to access advisory services by creating as many reasons as possible for them to come in and use the building, removing stigma, and by involving them in planning and designing the centre. Ash Sakula’s sensitivity towards the end-users of this project can be seen in the welcoming and comfortable qualities of these interiors, which invite playful interaction and offer solace to make this, quite simply, a lovely place for young people.
Camden’s aspiration was to involve the young people at every stage of the project, not only in designing the space, but also designing the services that they would access. With this in mind, Ash Sakula collaborated with Camden to set up a co-design programme, co-ordinating and running meetings and sharing information at every stage from concept to delivery. The heart of this project was the Young People’s Board that we set up together, made up of local young people from diverse backgrounds, with whom we worked closely at every stage of the project, from initial site visits to the choice of colours and furnishings. Collaborating with such focused and thorough young people, and to witness their pragmatism and thoughtfulness, was a fulfilling experience as it is rare to have the opportunity to work so closely with a project’s end-user. The co-design process made it possible to pinpoint exactly what it was the centre’s users required – a process that is so often overlooked – and to allow young people the autonomy to decide not only what services they require, but how they are provided, giving them a sense of ownership, responsibility and pride.
Architect: Ash Sakula
Collaborator: Young People’s Board
Client: London Borough of Camden and Camden Clinical Commissioning Group
Completed: July 2015
Refurbishment represents significant reduction of potential environmental impact compared with new build Significant improvement in environmental performance of an existing building
Facade upgraded by replacing existing shop front with timber-framed, high-performance windows
Energy-efficient heating and ventilation installed
Materials, fixtures and fittings selected according to environmental criteria, including high-rated appliances, water-efficient sanitaryware and lower-energy lighting with intelligent controls
Three fruiting trees and planting introduced to south-facing rear of building to counter solar gain and generate habitat for birds and insects Secure storage created for up to eight cycles