The Big House Theatre Company, known as ‘The Big House’ is a charity organisation set up in 2012. It primarily provides support for at risk young people who have left the care system and now need guidance in their rehabilitation and integration into adult life. The Big House works with these young people across a multitude of creative and cultural platforms, breaking destructive behaviour cycles that can lead vulnerable young people into trouble.
The design takes inspiration from the site’s former use as a mirror factory. A dusty old mirror reflects to create a distorted image. There is a duality of sameness and difference between the object and the reflection; in the world of theatre a duality is one of opposites.
The scheme plays upon these dualities and this is expressed through the juxtaposition of new elements within the existing fabric. The proposed interventions are moveable pieces of “furniture” which generate a flexibility within a permanent envelope.
Horses play a key role in High Barnet’s history: The market, Barnet’s Horse races, and the high density of Coach Houses and Inns provided for travellers and their horses on route to and from London.
LPA’s ‘Horse-Shoe House’, comprising of a new community centre and 10 apartments, reflects the communities heritage in every aspect of its fabric and form. LPA’s use of red brick, the proportions of balconies and windows, the wattling style woven balconies, the white ‘porches/loggias’, all simultaneously reflect the material language of the buildings immediate Victorian neighbours and the areas Tudor architectural heritage. The rhythm of the bays and balconies break up the facade, stepping in and out; horizontally to continue the stepped pattern of the Victorian terrace, and vertically, the first and second floors overhang like the local Tudor Coach houses. At the heart of the scheme, the building overhangs a horse-shoe shaped cobbled courtyard, which provides a welcoming entrance and accommodates the mode of transport, now cars, not coach & horses.
LPA recently completed and won the design proposal for this prime London location and historic Society in North London.The listed historic building is on the village green and LPA’s scheme will have a significant impact on the whole community as it will engage and invite locals in to the new and old spaces and facilities of this historic Society never previously accessible to the public, whilst respecting the requirement of the existing members.
LPA’s design proposal will physically and spiritually create a connecting ‘spine’ through the maze-like old areas to the zig-zagging new buildings, from the private to the public areas of the site.
Taking up almost 50 percent of the site, the new building will openly entice curious users. At street level a transparent new caffe welcomes you, as you step in, you find yourself to one side of an unexpected amphitheatre-like stepped courtyard. 125 linear metres of books, previously only accessible by appointment, snake around the courtyard taking the form of a ramped zig-zagging library.
The challenges of creating a design, working with a listed building, with difficulties of access and exits and complex user requirements, were not insignificant.
LPA resolved this with such a coherent concept and form that not only provides new facilities to all users of all ages; members of the society and members of the general public, but by developing and expanding this already historic site, provides the area with an iconic landmark.