Kantor Centre of Excellence: The Anna Freud Centre & Pears Family School
The new Kantor Centre of Excellence is a 3,200m2 new build and refurbishment project located on a restricted site near London’s Kings Cross. It will be the first centre of excellence for children and young people’s mental health in England and represents an exciting new era for the Anna Freud Centre charity, bringing together the best in research, policy and practice under one roof. At the heart of the Centre, the Pears Family School provides support for children aged 5-14, who have been excluded from mainstream school with serious and behavioural issues, and their families.
The challenge for the scheme was to bring together these diverse uses within a shared environment upon a site heavily constrained by its existing footprint, overlooking, rights-of-light issues and planning authority resistance, and more fundamentally to do so delivering an environment which is both calm and welcoming. Externally we had to reflect the identity of a world-class research institution at the forefront of its field without becoming either intimidating or institutional.
Maximising Flexibility and Density
When we first looked at accommodating this level of activity on this site we were wary, but a couple of key moves; scraping back the inclined ground level to liberate the chocolate factory’s existing basement; fully excavating the entirety of the site to form a basement around that same building; working with stakeholders to identify which uses could be co-located or timetabled and how working culture would need to change; allowed us to wholly deliver the brief upon the Rodney Street site.
As a charity we aim to transform the lives of children, young people and families struggling with mental health issues. The redeveloped sites will help us achieve this goal and we’re delighted to be working with Penoyre & Prasad who’ve got considerable expertise and experience in producing creative and functional designs for complex projects. Ros Bidmead, Chief Operating Officer
A Special Interior Collaboration
With this intensity of use and the often vulnerable state-of-mind of the young people accessing services it was critical to create spaces which reassured, soothed and inspired building users and visitors.
We worked closely with renowned designer Ilse Crawford to develop a seamless and common language flowing from architecture through interiors and visa-versa. Both practices brought-to-bear their focus on the needs, functional and psychological, of building users to drive design solutions and a visual sensibility unique to this collaboration.
Composite Structural Innovation
Within strict overall height limits Webb Yates Engineers devised with us an innovative composite structural solution absolutely minimising floor build-ups and hence overall building height allowing an additional storey to be built. Not only this, but the exposed engineered timber frame and coffers underpin the humane interiors we were keen to create. Four impressively deep timber beams traverse the entire frontage of the scheme and are visible from within the fully glazed façade.
A Knitted Façade
A diagonal motif unites curtainwall and precast cladding lending the concrete an almost knitted aesthetic. As that wraps around to glazing and becomes an enamelled frit it balances the needs of privacy against transparent views out to the park beyond. In both cases the move away from orthogonal orthodoxy speaks of an informality and playfulness which characterises the culture of the Centre beyond their recognised research, teaching and practice excellence.