Background Originally designed by Architects Co-Partnership (ACP) as a school, the development was completed in 1964 and initially opened as Beaufoy Secondary School providing education for some 600 children. It was later renamed after the famous Victorian/Edwardian theatre producer-manager Lilian Mary Baylis. The school was given a Grade II listing in 2002. This acknowledged its plan form with linked blocks forming a series of asymmetrical courtyards creating a ‘sense of drama’. The Lilian Baylis School moved in 2005 to new premises in Kennington Lane and the school buildings became neglected and run-down. A separate community sports initiative was subsequently established using the school’s former playing fields (see below). Henley Homes bought the old school site in 2011. A Planning Performance Agreement was entered into which identified key issues to be addressed: Regeneration; Design Quality; Community Impact; Housing; Transport; Sustainability. The project team worked closely with Lambeth’s housing department to ensure that the proposal addressed the Council’s identified housing needs as closely as possible. Henley’s regeneration proposals were submitted to Lambeth Council for full planning and listed building permissions in November 2012, with consultees including English Heritage, the 20th Century Society and the GLA. The project received unanimous planning approval in January 2013.
The evolution of Conran and Partners’ design was informed by actively engaging with – and seeking views from – a broad range of stakeholders, including site neighbours, artists in residence, local council representatives, English Heritage, the GLA, Secured by Design, national politicians and the original architects. In particular, the project architect for the Beaufoy Secondary School, Bob Sealy – formerly of APC and now retired – provided Conran and Partners’ design team with invaluable insight into the thinking behind the design and responded positively to the conversion proposals. ACP gave the team access to its drawing archives to existing buildings and original design strategies. The team undertook extensive consultation with the local community, culminating in two separate public exhibitions.
Conran and Partners’ design approach converts the existing classrooms into light-filled spacious ‘60s modernist apartments juxtaposed with contemporary new homes that draw on the character of the existing historic buildings. The landscape setting and series of intimate courtyards reflect the strong architectural character of the original scheme and complement the historic buildings. The project has created a new reflecting water pool in the main courtyard area, originally proposed within the 1960’s masterplan but not implemented until now. The scheme, completed and fully occupied by the end of the first half of 2016, was recently recognised a Winner in the ‘Completed Projects’ category of the 2016 Housing Design Awards. It was also shortlisted for a 2016 New London Award (‘Conservation and Retrofit’ category).
Tim Bowder-Ridger, Senior Partner and CEO, Conran and Partners: “Conran and Partners has a long-standing reputation for working successfully with often important historic buildings. We focus on the reinterpretation or even reinvention of their purpose, with a view to ensuring their relevance and viability for the future.
“Recently, through the resurgence of interest in British modernism, our commissions have extended to working with substantial pieces of Brutalist architecture. Adapting and rejuvenating these impressive concrete structures with confidence and flair begins by defining their original design philosophy and palette of ‘rules’. Getting to the crux of this at the start of a project ensures the architectural integrity lives on, whilst our interventions become graceful and engaging parts of the whole. Reawakening projects like Baylis Old School, Centre Point and the Barbican’s Blake Tower plays a significant role in preserving the spirit of our past, whilst creating unique places to live within a world in danger of becoming ever more generic.”
Scheme Description The former Lilian Baylis School has been transformed into a vibrant and unique new community, creating a development that draws on its rich history and secures a sustainable, long-term future for this important set of historic buildings and the courtyard spaces they create. The listed school buildings have been restored and converted sensitively to provide a range of new homes, inspired by the design of the 1960s architecture which they occupy, together with complementary and distinctive contemporary new-build dwellings to create 149 new homes, landscaped gardens, secluded plazas and community facilities that re-connect back to the wider neighbourhood.
The project provides a diversity of housing unit sizes and types, from one-bed apartments through to large family townhouses. Some 46 of the new homes are within the refurbished teaching blocks, drawing upon the character of the buildings originally designed by ACP. Their distinctive character creates large light-filled interiors from the generous fully-glazed classroom ends. The new masterplan opens up a scheme which was formerly closed and inward looking, and integrates it with the surrounding area by defining the street edges to Gibson Road and Lollard Street and improving the public realm with attractive and active frontages. Properties within the regeneration scheme range from two to six storeys in height. The design is a cohesive response to the scale and character of the listed buildings on the site as well as to the neighbouring buildings.
Baylis Old School offers more than four times the amount of amenity space on site than is required by statutory guidance. A range of high quality private and shared spaces is provided for residents in the form of balcony areas and terraces, spacious courtyards, communal gardens with water features, seating areas and safe-play zones for younger children. A number of mature trees have been retained, supplemented with generous new planting. Mini-allotment beds have been constructed to encourage and maintain active community involvement and healthy lifestyle activities. The former school hall – located wholly within the Old Baylis School development – has been retained. The developer is currently in discussions to find a suitable tenant – ideally with a community focus – for this building. The former school fields – situated to the south of the scheme – have been developed separately by the Black Prince Trust with Greenwich Leisure and Community Action Zone to provide sports facilities and community programmes and include a sports hall, external courts and associated facilities.
Phil Kapur, Associate Land Director, Henley Homes: “Working on a project like Baylis Old School has been immensely satisfying for the team at Henley. It was a unique site in an advanced state of dereliction when we acquired it, and the collaboration with Conran and Partners has created a new community of outstanding homes.”
Integrating with the Neighbourhood The site has been opened up to integrate more fully with its surrounding neighbourhood. In addition, some new buildings – particularly along Lollard Street and Gibson Road – have been introduced to the perimeter areas of the masterplan to give a stronger definition to the street edges and provide attractive and active frontages (doors, balconies and terraces), helping to animate the streetscape and also provide enhanced natural surveillance. The prominent stair tower next to the former library building at the centre of the site is retained and acts as a ‘pin wheel’ for the connecting courtyards and landscaped areas that radiate from it. New family town houses face existing town houses on Lollard Street and apartments on Gibson Road, both of which are no-through roads. Most of the parking required for residents has been located on site behind a screen of trees so as not to dominate the street, while pedestrians are given priority with broad pavements.
The site is well served by local amenities, with local shops, schools, pubs, cafés and variety of open spaces (including Lambeth Walk open space – which incorporates the Lollard Street Adventure Playground – and Doorstep Green) within a few minutes’ walking distance. An identified lack of dedicated play areas for under-5s within the immediate vicinity of the site has been addressed on site with three formal play areas for this age group.
Baylis Old School – with an average PTAL rating of 3 – is well-served by public transport with regular bus, underground and National Rail stations within walking distance. Secure, enclosed cycle storage is incorporated on site to promote cycling among residents and a docking station for ‘Santander Cycles’ is incorporated on the corner of Lollard Street and Gibson Road. The scheme includes a fully-integrated approach to refuse, recycling and cycle storage with dedicated bin and recycling stores do not detract from the quality of the street scene. The management strategy is practical accessible while maintaining active frontages.
Lee Davies, Partner, Conran and Partners: “Henley Homes showed considerable vision and conviction to take on this once derelict set of buildings and appoint us to deliver a successful design that both preserves and transforms this development into a vibrant and unique community which draws on its rich history. Now the scheme is complete, it’s great to see how the residents have embraced the spirit of the ‘60s architecture they live in and how quickly it is integrating with the wider area in which it is located.”