The Junction Community Peace Building
by Hall Black Douglas
Award RIBA Northern Ireland Award 2018
The client’s vision was for ‘.....a building where everybody belongs, there are to be no second class citizens and nobody can tell you that you shouldn’t be here.’ In our world where ever-increasing exclusion is the norm this posed a significant challenge, but one on which the architect has delivered. To quote the client - ‘The integration of architecture with the architecture of integration.’
To secure the last parcel of European Peace 3 funding this building, already a local landmark, was delivered from inception to completion to exacting time constraints. There was no scope for miscommunication or time delays and the jury were appraised of the obviously successful community consultations beforehand and the comprehensive identification and resolution of potential issues as scheme development progressed and before construction commenced.
The building, which stands on a former anti-social and interface area between disadvantaged communities of differing religion, houses a variety of community services meeting the needs of those sometimes less regarded in society. The folded roof form of the three storey structure reflects memories of the railway sheds which used to occupy the site. Many users have expressed incredulity that they can freely access a building of such quality, signaling that the aspirations of the many disadvantaged people now brought together under one roof are being met. The permeability of the building is evident, and it can be approached and accessed from a variety of directions, and has connectivity with a variety of cycling and pedestrian routes. The linear plan has been ‘kinked’ to respond to the site and with an access and vertical circulation route through the width of the building.
The reception entrance opens into a full height foyer space into which upper floors have views. Lightness and airiness abounds, with views out and through. The top floor extends up into the space formed by the folded roof structure resulting in a varied series of rooms. Internal wall finishes are simple plasterwork, with exposed brickwork, a warm buff/brown as used externally, marking the vertical circulation.
A conscious strategy was developed between the architect and client to ensure that the extensively glazed ground floor reception area, cafe and day space delivers on the client’s vision, with no one being challenged in this space. Two connected entrances open out to the adjacent park allowing The Junction to act as a concert, festival and conference venue. In addition to housing community development services for migrants, mental and physical wellbeing, support for adults with physical disability or sensory impairment provision has been made for bookable community meeting and event spaces.
Considerable effort has gone into ensuring that all manner of physical and mental barriers are eliminated, for example a simple transition between one flooring material and another or a line in the floor may be perceived as a barrier by some with mental impairment; how seating with high wings can increase a sense of security whilst others prefer the opposite. Ingenious timber sliding screens allow (non gender specific) toilet facilities to be available for outside events whilst the rest of the building is unoccupied. The building meets BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standards.
The obvious synergy between the client, Bernadette McAliskey, and architect is evident in the finished building, with both demanding excellence for groups in the community who are too often overlooked and institutionalized. It is clear that users, staff and visitors enjoy the building and its relationship to the surroundings and it is an exemplar for such buildings.
Contract value £3,618,900.00
Internal area 2,750.00 m²
Cost per m² £1,316.00 / m²
Contractor company name QMAC
Structural Engineers Design ID
Environmental / M&E Engineers Dynamic Design
Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant VB Evans