Lipton Plant Architects have extended and refurbished The Bath House Children’s Community Centre in Dalston, North London. The Bath House is a multi-purpose facility functioning daily as a nursery for children aged 1-5, an after-school club and holiday care provision.
LPA originated an idea that revolved around a central tree-like form, an intricate timber structure that connects the ground floor, a now expansive open-plan multi-purpose space, with the top of the tree, a platform which provides an area for quiet play, reading and sleeping. The concept for the tree, which envelopes the stair and with its many levels and dens on route to the top, was inspired by the tree-house home of the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ which was an adaption of an early 19th century novel by Johann David Wyss, inspired by the novel Robinson Cruesoe by Daniel Defoe, a Hackney resident in the 17th century.
The tree-house was assembled on site using timber supplied by a local builder’s merchant, it provides an interactive, stimulating, flexible, playful space that encourages the children to develop in an exciting, creative atmosphere. The space provokes imaginative play, providing both the possibility for independent play (apparently private inaccessible, yet visually monitored and accessible dens), as well as an open space for physical freedom, movement and physical development. By changing the dynamics and use of the space, it has changed how people engage with one another, it has changed relationships and already provides a greater sense of both a practical and emotional security and well-being for the children and the staff.
The tree both represents and encourages protection, adventure, creativity and growth; physically and emotionally. The new users; children, staff and parents, were over-whelmed once the new space was revealed to them on the day of the ‘grand-opening’.
The impact the space has on its users has already proved immeasurable. In transforming the children’s environment, Lipton Plant Architects feel they have contributed significantly to the Bath House being recently awarded and recognised as an outstanding nursery by Ofsted.