Barking and Dagenham Youth Zone Competition

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CLTH was invited by the OnSide charity to submit a proposal for a new youth centre in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. The centre is to be located on the edge of Parsloes Park, mediating between the expansive park landscape and the notable Becontree Estate – built in the interwar period as the largest public housing estate in the world and a defining feature of this part of Greater London.

This proposal for the new youth centre was designed to integrate the separate environments of park and suburbia into a cohesive whole. It contains courtyards that – like the park – allow young people opportunities for outdoor activies. Those courtyards are enclosed by blocks that – like a small town – gather people and activities within a connected, open environment. This plan device allows a very assorted brief – including sports hall, boxing gym, climbing wall, skate park, cafeteria, music room, offices, rooms for arts and crafts training, etc. – to be combined into a legible space: many activities are visible but the sense of orientation is always maintained.

Courtyards and blocks are contained within a single well-defined enclosure, enabling safe and easy movement from one space to another and visibility throughout the building. Large picture windows open views out to the park and views in from the surrounding streets.

This design turns the brief into an expression of young people's attitude and aspirations – the energy, playfulness, and curiosity that drive their discoveries. Activities and spaces need not be wholly fixed to be useful, and the layout of the Youth Zone expresses the possibilities of what can be done in an open, connected environment.