A London borough came under fire earlier this month for rejecting plans to transform a car park into 800 creative studios, but architect Carl Turner says his alternative proposal will offer a resource for the entire local community, not just artists.
Turner teamed up with property developers The Collective on the Pop Community proposal – one of three shortlisted by Southwark Council for the redevelopment of the Peckham car park that hosts Frank's Cafe on its roof every summer.
It was selected ahead of the Bold Home proposal by architects Selgascano, put forward by Second Home founder Rohan Silva, entrepreneur Sam Aldenton and Bold Tendencies founder Hannah Berry, who has been running the building's arts programme for the last nine years.
Turner told Dezeen his aim was to add another layer to the building, which he described as an amazing community asset.
"We want to create a space that is more permeable than a specifically art-centric building, so it's a bit more open and doesn't rely on you having a degree in Fine Art to get a space there," he explained.
Pop Community Ltd also runs Pop Brixton – a complex of workspaces created from shipping containers, which Turner says will provide a model for the development.
"Our Brixton project has been about four or five times oversubscribed and we're getting new enquiries every day, so we know there's a huge problem in south London with a lack of affordable space," said Turner.
Turner plans to convert the lower levels of the car park into studios and workshops for creatives, but middle levels will provide co-working spaces and offices for businesses that require "cleaner and warmer" environments.
The number of units will be significantly less than the 800 proposed by Bold Home. But Turner claimed this figure was unrealistic.
"We've looked at our plans, which are way less, and even if we provided spaces the same sizes as the footprint of a car parking bay – which is about 2.4 metres by five metres – there's only 270 car parking bays on those floors," said Turner.
"Half of them are in the centre of the building where it's pitch black," he added. "So quite frankly we don't understand where that figure comes from and it seems undeliverable in the building."
Under Turner's scheme, the centre of the car park, where natural light is limited, will be converted into shared workshop facilities such as photography and CNC labs, and a kiln room. Existing ramps will be retained, and windows will be slotted in from the inside to remove the need for scaffolding.
"We don't want to use any more natural resources than we have to to create the space," Turner told Dezeen. "It's hopefully a light touch and a minimal approach."
"From the outside we like the fact that it's still going to look like a car park and it's a little bit tucked away – you have to know about it to go there," he added. "We don't want to lose that sense of the mystique of the building almost."
Pop Community Ltd is currently in discussions with local residents and stakeholders to finalise the designs, and is also meeting with current building inhabitants Bold Tendencies and Frank's Bar, both of which will remain in place.
"We want to have that conversation with local people and if it transpires that we want to squeeze in as many art spaces or workshops as possible then that's they way we’ll go," said Turner. "But if it's to have better quality space and more communal facilities, we'll go that way."
Prospective tenants will undergo an application process designed to ensure the building is affordable for and targeted to local people. Inhabitants will be required to "give back" by putting in a minimum of an hour a week training and mentoring for local people.
The scheme bucks the current trend in London for turning old buildings and derelict sites into luxury flats. In October London mayor Boris Johnson warned that the city was set to lose a third of its creative workspaces by 2020.
Building is planned to start in March 2016, and Pop Community Ltd aims to open the car park in phases starting from June 2016.
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