New River Green Children’s Centre, Islington

New River Green Children’s Centre, Islington

Client: New River Green Children’s Centre
Architect: MeadowcroftGriffin Architects
Sub contractor: D&G Contracts
Type of works: supply of Blue and Green rainscreen cladding panels.

Colourful rainscreen cladding panels from Steni UK were specified by MeadowcroftGriffin Architects to meet a host of criteria for an extension to a children’s centre in north London. More than 200m2 of steni colour fibreglass reinforced-polymer composite panels, that feature a smooth surface of electron-beam cured acrylic that is produced without the use of solvents, were specified in four high-gloss colours for New River Green Children’s Centre in Islington.

The extension was recognised as a key regeneration scheme for the local community. It had to achieve a new identity to help the centre stand out on the old Marquess housing estate just off Balls Pond Road, a major east-west route, along with requirements for durability, low-maintenance and robustness in the face of vandal attacks.

The existing centre was constructed in timber frame over a low and sprawling single-storey as a purpose-built nursery for 75 children. Part of it was converted to form a family project in a small suite of rooms on the street frontage 7 years ago that provided flexible crèche and drop-in events for 200 families on a weekly basis. This successful facility was struggling to meet demand due to lack of space and shared entrance which led to conflicts of security.

MeadowcroftGriffin’s brief from the London Borough of Islington’s early years department was to provide a sustainable solution – a flexible range of spaces that could accommodate a wide variety of activities to support families with young children, ranging from creche facilities to training space and health and counselling rooms. New office space and staff room was also required.

Planning restrictions prevented any extension to the front of the existing building line and the rear of the site was mature play garden with significant trees that could not be removed. The only space to extend the building was over the footprint of the family project area, which required partial demolition and rebuilding with an additional storey.

The design also had to bear in mind that while the centre had been a much more visible community building in the past, multi-storey blocks of housing had been built on the open land surrounding the site and its visibility had suffered as a result, to the extent that is was frequently reported to be hard to find.

The centre’s community presence needed raising to ensure full access to the services for all families and carers and, above all, it needed to be inspirational to children, families, staff and all who used it. It also needed to be attractive, durable, energy efficient and represent good value for money in addition to secure, vandalism having been a particular problem in the past due to youths climbing over the perimeter railings and damaging external play equipment and breaking windows.

The north-west facade of the new, 275m2, two-storey, timber-framed extension was clad vertically with the steni colour panels, using screws and battens by specialist sub-contractor D&G Contracts over one month of the seven month total build.

The steni colour panels, which are available in 40 standard colours, different gloss levels and two thicknesses, were designed in a water-based theme, using Blues and Greens to reflect the nearby river and, as a playful statement, announcing the new building on the corner.

MeadowcroftGriffin Director, Ann Griffin, said: "The seni material was specified as a durable material that would be low-maintenance. We selected the colours to signify a water-based theme to reflect the location adjacent to the local river. The gloss factor on the panels was also key in portraying this theme. The two key facades facing the public realm use the steni product and the other two facing the mature garden which connect to the existing building are clad in timber. We felt a lot could be achieved using well-targeted, specific interventions; ow-cost approaches to effect maximum change. We also sought to use materials with low environmental impact."

D&G’s Managing Director, Gerry Kelly, said: "Although it was a tight site and there were boundary restrictions, it was a standard installation for this type of product and we were impressed with it."

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