This week, Sonia Soltani reports on an aesthetically stimulating lift shaft that helped a teaching centre meet access requirements while also cutting its budget 25%.
The Credon Centre lift tower in Newham, east London, is an aesthetic and a financial wonder. Bushe Associates, the project architect, not only sliced the budget by a quarter, it also created a dramatic new entrance for the Victorian building, which houses a resource centre for teachers.
The practice was approached by the centre because of its reputation in conversion work. The brief was to design a lift to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, which aims to give disabled people better access to services and buildings. The lift was to be built at the rear of the building within a new lift shaft to create a new entrance to the Credon Centre. But Bushe Associates then took things a little further.
Director Tim Bushe says: “We took the rather prosaic requirement to provide a new lift to meet DDA regulations as an opportunity to open up the entrance area into the reception and cafe and create a light and spacious volume, while creating a strong identity for this popular resource centre.”
The practice’s design was a world away from the initial proposal by Newham council’s internal consultants. They had designed a brick Victorian pastiche that, according to Bushe, blocked views and light into the teaching rooms.
“It wasn’t hard to find a better solution,” he says. “The borough consultants had come up with an outrageously expensive solution. They were trying to mimic the brick detail of the existing building. Our design was much lighter and more appropriate.”
The council didn’t take long to choose between the two options since Bushe Associates’ design was £125,000 cheaper than the consultants’ initial concept, cutting the overall costs down to £375,000.
Bushe wanted to let light enter the lift tower while making the lift visible from the outside. To do both, it designed a three-storey frameless glass structure. The tower is decorated with a typographic design by graphic designer Linnett Webb Jenkins that represents the three Rs: a large alphabet is screen-printed on the outside, combined with small-scale numerals on film on the inner face. The shaft itself is a combination of 24 toughened glass flat sections and laminated glass on the curved corners, printed using a frit that simulates etched glass. The architect specified laminated glass for the curved sections because it was not technically possible to add the stove-enamelled letters before or after the toughening process.
To light it at night, industrial fluorescent battens have been specified. A combination of LED floor-mounted uplighters and fluorescent tubes lights the new bridge link to each lift lobby. “The lift car has external light top and bottom to provide kinetic drama against the text at night,” says Bushe.
As a counterpoint to the vertical emphasis of the shaft, an internally lit steel screen with a coloured polycarbonate lining was designed to direct visitors to the entrance.
As for the lift itself, Bushe Associates specified a machine-room-less model from manufacturer Porn Dunwoody because “it’s quite minimal and elegant”. The eight-person traction lift is finished in stainless steel, with glazed side-opening doors and rear panels. Bushe says: “We specified this lift because it required no high-level lift motor room and the installation involved minimal work to the existing Victorian building.”
He adds that the lift offers a 40% reduction in energy costs because of the variable frequency system, which takes into account usage frequency depending on time of day. No air-conditioning or heating was required.
The centre’s front entrance was bombed during the Second World War and it has not had a clearly signalled entrance since then. After four years of work from concept stage to completion earlier this month, the Credon Centre’s striking new entrance fills this gap and offers better access to its disabled users.
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