Stephen Lawrence Centre by Adjaye Associates

| 16 comments

Stephen Lawrence Centre, an educational centre designed by Adjaye Associates, has opened in London, England.

Built in the memory of murdered architecture student Stephen Lawrence, the centre is dedicated to improving opportunities for young black people in south London.

Photos are © Lyndon Douglas.

Here's some info from the architects:

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Stephen Lawrence Centre —Educational Centre
London, 2007

Adjaye Associates won the invited competition to design the Stephen Lawrence Centre. The centre is both a memorial and a place of inspiration in honour of Stephen Lawrence, the architectural student murdered in 1993.

The Stephen Lawrence Centre is located in Brookmill Road, Lewisham and opened in autumn 2007. It offers services to the general population of the Lewisham area but has a unique contribution to make in relation to improving the life chances of black Caribbean and African young people. The Centre works closely with partners in the area to tackle under achievement and to increase young people’s motivation to embrace education and overcome the barriers of the fulfillment of their potential in life.

The centre comprises meeting rooms, classrooms, IT labs, offices and exhibition space. Highlights of the centre’s programming activities include their successful mentoring programme, the Community Empowerment Education Programme and the Creative Arts Laboratory, a seperate adjacent building containing studios equipped with equipment for recording, video editing, music, mixing and local broadcasting.

January 2004—2007
Total contract value £4m (target and actual)

Client body/Reference:

Doreen Lawrence
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
The Stephen Lawrence Centre
39 Brookmill Road
London SE8 4HU
United Kingdom

Architect – Adjaye Associates

Project Manager – Turner and Townsend

Quantity Surveyor – Turner and Townsend

Structural Engineer – Price Myers

Mechanical Engineer – Faber Maunsell

  • Arch

    okay, the lights create effects on orange walls.
    it could be irrelevant to say that one of the reasons why adjaye won is because he is also black.
    but i just have a feeling that it is so.
    sad.

  • xearo

    well to be honest adjaye is a good architect anyway…so who cares?
    also obviously due to the high profile nature of the stephan lawrence case, it will have partly been a political decision, and as the centre aims at giving young black people in the area a root into architectural education – it makes perfect sense to give a high profile and good black british architect the commission – aside from anything as a positive role model of the thing the programme of the building is apparently aspiring to.

    so why is it ‘sad’?
    is that what you call ‘political correctness gone mad’?

    is it not just a relatively obvious- but still reasonably deft decision?

  • the frog

    very nice indeed.

  • http://www.choosenick.com Nick

    I live just moments away from the centre, and I didn’t know what it was until the other day when I read that some kids had vandalised the building.

    Ironically, there’s a complete lack of community awareness around this building – maybe its because I’m white I haven’t been targeted with info, I don’t know – but in my opinion the design of the building reflects this somewhat. Its quite a cold, sharp form at odds with any of the older local buildings. The black windows aren’t inviting, there’s no informational signage and what doesn’t come through in these pictures is the awful landscaping around the building – badly finished asphalt meets poorly poured concrete meets cheap iron railings.

    Closed, aloof and out of context – great work Adjaye! What a shame.

  • Me

    Arch, you do have a right to your own opinion, but tough. Alought it was definately a political move to hire Adjaye for the job, the whole point behind it was to inspire and break the cycle of under acheiving in black Caribbean and African children in the country. I can’t understand why any reasonable person would have a problem with that.

  • alice

    maybe so, but perhaps he won because he gave a greater insight to how the building was to be used and concluded his design and justified it through his knowledge and understanding of black culture. and so, yes, your opinion is a little sad.

  • duke

    Adjaye is Black???!!!! Oh no… Tell me it’s not true…

  • JuiceMajor²

    Arch, what is sad is the fact that you could make that kinda of assumption without any facts. Adjaye is a good architect to begin with.

    And to prove it, I think this is a well designed building for a well good intention!

  • roadkill

    There are countless substation in London with more charm than this building…. it is closed off and uninviting and does nothing to bridge relations between communities…

  • Arch

    Before that comment was posted, I already knew that i would be touching the grounds of the ‘extra- sensitives’.
    I have the choice. Like you do, I could have posted my oohs and aahs on the building and the designer, but I didn’t.

    I would further reply to your comments by not commenting more.
    ta-ta.

  • Me

    Brilliant!

  • Simone B

    I don’t know this building personally, I live on the other side of London. But what I do understand is that this building would be an emotionally charged site regardless of what was built. It may suffer the way other buildings which have had to deal with the emotions of a community has in the past, for example the Liebeskind Jewish memorial building in, berlin where the building itself argues to be a monument to the people as well as the objects and images inside and in many ways becomes a conflicted space.
    In some ways this building also reminds me of the Will Alsop Children Center in Harlesden. This is a building which I do live quite close to and was amazed that it could be put up for a RIBA nomination due to the poor quality of materials and finish compared to what was proposed for the site. However, the people who use the center praise it for its functionality and the happiness the children gain from using the building.
    When considering these factors I think that the Adjaey building can not be judged solely from the outside, or these images, we will have to wait and see if it does what it was intended to; inspire the surrounding community in particular the black youth to take an interest in architecture. This in itself is a substantial task, let alone getting the windows right or the asphalt perfect.
    The problem surrounding this building is it stands for so much more than its bricks and mortar, and it was designed for those ‘extra-sensitives’ in mind so their opinons are the ones we should be trying to hear. Unfortunately this design website is an unlikely place to find that voice.

  • http://andrewkbrown.wordpress.com Andrew Brown

    Like Nick I live around the corner from the centre, but unlike him I did know what it was and have been waiting for it to be completed and opened for a while.

    It’s great to see how the building looks once you get in and the students that use it will find it inspiring I’m sure.

    It was very disturbing to walk past the building only a few days after its official launch and to see a number of the windows broken, but I understand those who did it have been caught and charged.

    I’m not sure the centre could ever achieve some of the aspirations that some in this thread seem to want, and nor does the Trust think it will. They say:

    The Centre will provide young people living in poverty with information, training, advice and guidance. The Centre will also act as a hub where industry, community organisations and educational institutions can exchange information on the latest skills and needs in urban design and regeneration.

  • Celestino

    In the UK everything goes about social tension between different cultures, races and social classes and this is so dramatically transferred into cultural manifestations like buildings or other objects of art. For me, a Black African and also architect, I think all the architecture language can be misunderstand when this type of approach is chosen. We should just do architecture, which approach people through special integration as done by Alsop in Peckman library. Adjaye is an excellent architect but should stop using racial motives, as a way of doing architecture because does not work most of the time. Black people have everthing back in Africa: scientists, professors, architects, poets, writers, etc, etc. We do not need to proof nothing here (UK).

  • Ndu Wodu

    Strangely, today i had a chat with a chap from a breakdown recovery service. During the course of our conversation, he complained about muslims and race issues and “a type of positive discrimination that is becoming the order of the day in Britain”. I listened to this chap and thought scary mindset put across politely and a little too loudly. I am a black man (an Architect) and he is a white guy, turns out we were the same age. Different experiences have given us different ways of seeing the world. I respected his opinion, although i disagreed with every aspect and angle of it, including the PC politeness (“you’re alright, not like them, you speak good English”). It is so easy to have a crude and uninformed opinion… is this not often otherwise described at best as laziness and at worst as bigotry?

    Whatever is said, we have problems here, within our communities that need to be addressed. ‘Roadkill’ says that Adjaye’s building “is closed off and uninviting and does nothing to bridge relations between communities…”

    Architecture itself cannot solve community problems but it can provide a place/platform for those issues to be addressed. But the truth is no matter who the building is designed by, we can only make change with intelligent and rational dialogue.

    I wonder if the building was designed by a none Black Architect, would we be having discussions like this. Wierdly, i have never experience or benefitted from positive discrimination. If it came to me, would i take advantage of it? Well i think the real answer is… if it wasn’t presented to me as such, but as chance, luck, merit i would ride the wave. I am sure most other people would too.

    David Adjaye, is a good Architect, and what has to be said is that he is also a fantastic business man. One only has to look at what he has managed to achieve in a relatively short career.

    In all honesty this whole race debate is boring ad nauseam, and the absurdity of positive discrimination seems justifable simply because inequality is still rife.

    Let’s just celebrate the building and have a debate on its architectural merit (or lack thereof). As an Architect i feel terrible when architectural debates get contaminated with the sort of chit chat that would be frowned upon at a Jerry Springer show!

  • Anne

    Thank you, Ndu, for that comment. Im an architect as well, and I was – until I read your post, quite worried about where the debate was heading – and had started, and that this even is a theme to discuss when it comes to architecture and architects.