Red Lion Centre

Location: Rotherhithe, Southwark
Type: Youth and Community Centre, Public Realm and Estate Improvement
Client: LB of Southwark
Collaborators: Stephen Taylor Architects, Robbie Blundell
Duration: 2022-
Status: Developed Design

Okra are collaborating with Stephen Taylor Architects on designs for a new Youth and Community Centre, public realm enhancements and estate improvements at the Hawkstone Estate. Okra’s design methodology forefronts research, engagement and action testing, to ensure proposals reflect the needs, interests and skills of the local community to create a popular and sustainable outcome.

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Okra conducted engagement workshops and used archival research to understand and celebrate the past, present and future of the Hawkstone Estate, including door-to-door outreach, 1:1 meetings and coffee mornings on the estate to facilitate open conversations and to share memories. This process allowed Okra to understand and identify opportunities for investigations, repairs and improvements to the estate. It also highlighted the loss of estate social infrastructure, especially in recent years, including communal storage, an estate services office, a Sure Start Centre and a resident-led Youth and Community Facility.

Okra hosted a Community Activity Weekend in collaboration with residents and local organisations, including the T&RA, to develop and test a programme for a new community space and enhanced public realm. Responding to local needs, activities included food, sports, music and arts and crafts classes and were hosted by local organisations.

Feedback from residents has informed Okra’s design proposals for new community infrastructure within a residential development. The design for the Youth and Community Centre includes a welcoming, free-to-use community living room and kitchen on the ground floor for informal use including self-service refreshments and drop-in workshops, as well as occasional, visible meetings by estate organisations such as the TRA and gardening groups. The first floor provides a range of spaces for more formal activities, as well as more dedicated childcare and Youth Club spaces, with Youth Club access if preferred by the operator and users.

Playground space and an existing MUGA in front of the centre are improved to make them more functional and enjoyable, with acoustic treatments to reduce noise. A new gridded ground surface in stone references the civic qualities of the original estate design and is softened by intersecting perennial wildflower meadow planting, the retention of existing trees and the planting of new trees.

All research and initial design concepts were presented to Southwark Council in 2023, including defining a scope for estate improvements and RIBA Stage 2 designs for a new Youth and Community Centre.