Case Study: Copeland Park
Copeland Park is the architectural catalyst at the heart of Peckham’s thriving creative community. We were approached by the estate to help expand the capacity of their mixed-use site, without disrupting its existing delicate ecosystem.
Copeland Industrial Park has been part of central Peckham for many years, providing traditional warehouse spaces for light industrial use, storage, and artist studios. In 2009, it was saved by local campaigning from becoming a tram depot, and now is at the heart of Peckham’s flourishing creative quarter. Today the flourishing site, which is made up of many distinct buildings across an entire city block, hosts a wide variety of creative, artistic, fitness and faith groups. Since 2014, its been our home too.
The Copeland Park site is complex, hard to navigate, and fairly run down, all of which forms part of its quintessential charm. For artists and makers, the studios are unfussy and durable well-lit spaces where they can make a mess without fear of losing a deposit. For public facing businesses, the quirkiness, and tucked-away nature of the estate give it a certain appeal. With the site nearing 100% occupancy, we were approached by the estate to help them think about the site’s next stages of development. Our challenge was how to build upon the current success without sterilising it, and importantly, while protecting the interests of the local community.
Our experience visiting every unit, meeting and talking to the tenants, and drawing up a measured survey of the ~10,500m2 site, gave us some unique insights into the success of the estate, and what needed to be protected going forward.
Of the commercial tenants, over 90% are micro-businesses of under 5 people, who we found were much more reliant on their neighbours both socially and when skill swapping in a work context. Lots of people told us that they felt the community strengthen once the number of public-facing businesses increased to the current balance, as there were more shared spaces for people to pass-by and meet. We noticed large seasonal difference in site use and number of external visitors suggested an opportunity for improving winter usage in the design proposals.
The site was too complex for any single solution, so we put forward a multi-stranded strategy. The proposals maintained a similar pattern of small, mixed-use units and matched the amount of private and public spaces. Two of the architectural proposals included large sheltered shared spaces for improving site use in winter, and there was also consideration given to how to improve site access.
Proposal 1: New High Street Access
In surveying the wider site, we found an opportunity to create a new pedestrian connection through to the high street through the back of an existing arcade. Opening this up would not only vastly increase traffic past existing businesses there, but also create an opportunity for addition of new commercial units and an outdoor space for the bars and cafes, activating a large disused yard at the heart of the estate.
Proposal 2: Container Studios
Our proposals involved a series of drop-in shipping containers that would continue the development pattern of the arcade, housing a mix of units for artists, designer-makers, bars and shops, with a large public covered area given over for seating along one side of the yard.
Conscious of the recent popularisation of container villages in London, we sought to develop a unique take on this form by taking a human centred-approach to the design. By visiting various container schemes and speaking to people there, we found that the traditional approach of replacing the solid end doors with glass led to dimly-lit, tunnel-like spaces that customers found intimidating to enter, and staff found claustrophobic to work in.
In response to this, we proposed to cut out the containers’ long sides and fit a translucent, sliding door facade system in its place. This would maximise natural light for tenants, while also allowing the shop and bar units to more fully open up to their customers.
Proposal 3: Roof Extension
Following on from the success of the container scheme, we were asked to take a similar investigative approach into how to improve use of the Bussey Building’s 1000m2 roof space.
We undertook a feasibility study into potential future uses of the building’s expansive roofscape, assessing options as varied as community allotments, an open-air theatre, even an orangery, continuing the tradition of reimagining the Bussey in different guises.
The final design, which was granted planning earlier this year, involved a retractable fully-glazed roof that would allow year round use of the space without losing its essential character. The public viewing platform would attract many more visitors to the site, while marking out the Bussey as a landmark destination in its own right.
As a beloved and highly prominent building in the area, involving the community and communicating the design intent was critical to the success of the planning application.
We organised an exhibition as part of the public consultation process to explain the proposals and get ideas from local businesses and residents that would feed into the design. The exhibition involved a large scale model, which we made in house, to help explain the size, scale and mechanisation of the new roof extension.
Watch this Space.
Both the above projects have been granted planning permission and are currently at detailed design stage. Check back for updates as the project progresses.
Banner video courtesy of Peckham Festival 2017.