Featherstone Young has completed a new community centre and boxing club under the Westway, West London. The two buildings are linked by a social street, creating a much-needed public space for this inner-city neighbourhood. The practice offered its architectural services on a pro-bono basis to the BBC show The Big Build (formerly DIY SOS), in conjunction with end user Westway Trust, to design a new home for the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club, which was destroyed in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, as well as a new community space for residents local to North Kensington.
The practice joined many other build companies (including main contractor Galliard Homes), all of whom donated goods and services to a value approaching £2 million. Materials for the entire project – including fit-out - were donated in-kind. A crew of volunteers helped deliver the project as part of the BBC show’s Grenfell programme, which was broadcast in autumn 2018. The scheme includes a two-storey community building and one-storey boxing club with mezzanine. The two buildings have been built on Bay 20, a plot of land under the A40 Westway flyover that has been empty and inaccessible for decades. Public consultation workshops were undertaken to ensure the realisation of a truly community-led facility which responds to the diverse needs of the neighbourhood.
Flexible spaces, shared experiences and providing more opportunities for young people have driven the design scheme. Featherstone Young is an award-winning architecture practice with a strong track record designing community spaces and flexible architectural schemes. One of their key concepts is ‘baggy space’, where a light touch design is employed to create a place that encourages users to fill the gaps and take ownership, rather than provide a more rigid design that dictates what activities should take place within a space.
The Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club is widely celebrated as an important and longstanding resource for changing the lives of young people for the better. As well as fulfilling its sporting purpose, the space also delivers positive outcomes for the wider community, providing wellbeing activities for all ages, with take-up from local schools, unemployment projects and Grenfell residents. It has also produced worldclass boxers – most recently Olympic gold medal winner James DeGale and world champion George Groves. Since 1999 it was based on the first floor of Grenfell Tower; following the fire it has operated from a car park. Its new home in the singlestorey with mezzanine building accommodates a boxing ring, training and gym area, changing rooms, showers and WCs. A toughened translucent glass wall to the social street offers glimpses and impressions of the activities within - giving an engaging backdrop as well as helping to light the street at night.
While the boxing club building is designed for a specific, dedicated use, the community centre employs Featherstone Young’s baggy space concept, and is effectively a loose space designed to support a range of activities, inviting the local community to adapt it to suit their range of needs. The social street linking the two buildings offers an external baggy space that contributes to public life and creates good visual connections to the neighbouring Maxilla Gardens and pedestrian/cycle routes running alongside the Westway. In addition to the diffuse lighting through the translucent boxing club wall, the street will be lit by a series of glowing fibreglass tree sculptures that link to the park space of Maxilla Gardens beyond.
The two-storey community centre comprises two large halls supported by a range of smaller meeting spaces, a community kitchen, storage and toilets. The first floor is cantilevered approximately 2.5m over the park, with large windows that maximise natural light and views out, while maintaining the pedestrian route and improving security along Maxilla Walk.
Graham Gater, Chairman, Dale Youth Boxing Club, said:
“The provision of our new world-class contemporary gym, designed by Featherstone Young and delivered through partnerships driven by Galliard Homes, has given us an exceptionally well-designed space on formerly vacant derelict land, providing the impetus and inspiration to shape the lives and improve the health and mental wellbeing of the local community, with a focus on young people from marginalised and socio-economically deprived backgrounds. The legacy will live on for decades.”
Jeremy Young, Featherstone Young, said:
"This is a very unusual project in terms of procurement, but it demonstrates how a well-considered, complex building can be realised from inception to completion in only five months - and provide a valuable and permanent community resource for the future.”