Barking Learning Centre
The Barking Learning Centre is the first major project to be completed as part of the ambitious regeneration of Barking as a key town in the Thames Gateway. The dramatic scheme involved the extensive refurbishment of the existing library into to new community resource housing library facilities as well as ICT suites, conference facilities, a one-stop-shop, caf�, art gallery and classrooms. Located opposite the Town Hall, the Barking Central regeneration project includes the new Learning Centre facing a new public square and over 240 apartments in two six storey blocks sitting over the library. The scheme provides a successful new model of a financially viable, private-public initiative, delivered by Redrow Regeneration and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham that was also delivered 3 months ahead of schedule. Further phases include residential and office buildings which complete the architectural ensemble around a compact urban woodland called the Arboretum. Creating Places The starting point for the Barking Learning Centre was the retention of the rundown town library building built in the 1970s. Stripped back to its concrete structure, the original building was reconfigured and extended into a modern community building funded by the University of East London, Barking College and Barking Libraries. On the ground floor the spaces are designed to create an informal atmosphere where people can come to browse, meet or work and wi-fi is provided to encourage use of the centre for pleasure and work by a diverse mix of the community. The upper floor houses the more traditional lending library and conference facilities. Barking Libraries have recorded a huge increase in library use and uptake of adult courses since the Learning Centre opened in 2007. AHMM worked with long term collaborator Studio Myerscough to develop branding and colour strategies for the whole scheme. The bold use of yellow and green at Barking relates to the distinctive R Whites Lemonade logo, as the factory was once located on the site. The colours are carried through to the interior of the Learning Centre where a vibrant environment of super graphics and brightly coloured bespoke furniture hover between a yellow rubber floor and a ceiling system composed of Barrisol light panels, aluminium radiant panels and acoustic panels. The distinctive fa�ade of the library is a mosaic skin created from aluminium and glazed panels which also wraps around the fa�ade of the new art gallery also facing the town square. The cladding system was fixed with the grain finish turned in 4 different directions to create a dappled fa�ade utilizing only one metallic colour finish, minimizing the lead in time, the need for special one off elements and resulting in a cost efficient but attention-grabbing elevational treatment. The library fa�ade is punctuated by the canopy of the double-height reception area, helping orientate visitors and, on the first floor, a new large public room that cantilevers into the square. Homes and Gardens The two residential buildings, built over the existing structure, house one and two bedroom apartments. Named the Ropeworks after a building also located on the site, each block is named after the Victorian owners of the Ropeworks. Cutmore, on the north, cantilevers over the original floorplate and is supported on a dramatic colonnade of V columns and Schrier, is the southern building. The outer elevations of each building are a smaller scale mosaic in a shimmering silver rainscreen cladding punctured by staggered balconies. The balconies are coloured green at the east end of the elevation shading to yellow at the west. In between the two parallel buildings a sky garden, designed by Grant Associates, has been created on the roof of the Learning Centre. Here the elevations change to a white self-coloured render with white balconies creating an unexpected and tranquil environment for residents in the heart of Barking. All of the new apartments in Barking Central are spacious with open-plan living and kitchen, large balcony and quality materials and finishes. Public realm Muf architecture/art worked with AHMM on new elements for the public realm that would relate to the history of the town and the existing community. They designed the new Town Hall Square to be paved in pink granite with a �folly� located on the north side to be created from architectural objects salvage. As well as contributing to issues of routes, they designed the colonnade, which preserves the route from Ripple Road to the new square and Town Hall, with a dramatic black and white chequered tiled floor and chandeliers by Tom Dixon. Sustainability Sustainability was central to the project, influencing strategic decisions right from the outset. This included the re-use of the existing library structure, itself re-modelled as part of the development thereby reducing waste and the impact of the demolition. The scheme has solar thermal hot water heaters that serve the top level of the development as part of the on site renewables provision. Windows are triple glazed as part of a highly insulated envelope. Water conservation is also addressed through the use of dual flush WCs aerating taps; low-flow showers. Water meters were installed in all homes to encourage occupants to be aware of their water usage and so encourage conservation. The ecological value of the development was enhanced by planting native wildlife-friendly species in the courtyard garden and through the installation of a brown roof which provides a valuable habitat for Black Redstarts and other wildlife. The development has made prudent use of construction materials by sourcing FSC or PEFC-certified timber and utilise materials with a recycled content wherever possible.

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