BPN Architects were appointed by Lichfield City Council to develop the proposals for Darwin Hall Community Centre which serves the communities of Darwin Park Estate and the Chester Road areas of Lichfield.Named after Erasmus Darwin who was a resident of Lichfield during the 18th Century, Darwin Hall Community Centre is located at the end of Cathedral Walk, a landscaped avenue which carves it’s way through Darwin Park Estate providing one of the best views of Lichfield Cathedral.Darwin Hall was been funded through Section 106 contributions from the Darwin Park and Chester Field Road Estates.
Three principles were established during the development of the design:
1. Retention of open view and relationship with setting
2. Domestic scale, form, identity and materials
3. Contemporary building with sustainable approach.
The external treatment of the elevations was an important aspect of the design development. For security reasons, Lichfield City Council wanted to reduce the number of windows to the building. Therefore, the windows were positioned to focus views of Lichfield Cathedral and the surrounding landscape. The windows frame these views so that they become pictures on the wall.
As there were only a few windows, the brick became a critical element of the design and appearance of the building. It needed to combine a variety of textures and tones to reflect the variety of bricks used on Darwin Park estate. It also had to have a ‘handcrafted’ quality providing interest and character. Many of the historical brick buildings within Lichfield embodied these qualities and so it was important that the brick on Darwin Hall Community Centre continued this language. For this reason, Wienerberger’s ‘Hectic Red’ was specified and became the first time the brick was used in the UK.
The aspiration for Darwin Hall to be an environmentally friendly community centre was established from the outset. This was achieved through integration of passive and active methods: Ground Source Heat Pump, Bio Disc, Natural Ventilation, Heat Recovery, Daylight.
(Photographs courtesy of Weinerberger).