The 1960s building is now home to arts organisation Forma and includes a colourful public rooftop garden
Words by Francesca Perry
Sanchez Benton Architects – in collaboration with artist Gabriel Kuri and horticulturist Nigel Dunnett – has transformed a low-rise modernist building in south London into a new hub for arts organisation Forma, with a public rooftop garden.
Commissioned by Southwark Council and curator Aldo Rinaldi, the new Forma HQ – situated between Elephant and Castle and Bermondsey, overlooking the Bricklayers Arms roundabout – comprises Forma’s new offices, five affordable artist studios, a residency space for visiting international artists, an event space, room for a café and bookshop and a walled rooftop garden.
The building, known as Peveril Gardens Studios, is a 1960s brick and concrete structure which originally comprised lockable garages on the ground floor and a private podium terrace above. Following community engagement with the residents of the Peveril estate, who fed in their ideas to the building’s transformation, Southwark Council initiated a culturally driven regeneration of the site.
Sanchez Benton first had to repair and upgrade the existing building, which was in a state of neglect. The practice converted the old drive-through to the ground-floor garages into a large community space at heart of the new studios.
A new glazed entrance inflects inwards, creating space for a large tree to grow through the first floor slab and project into the public walled garden above, and a new public stair has been created to access the garden. Throughout the project, Sanchez Benton prioritised reusing materials from the existing building.
The rooftop was transformed in collaboration with Dunnett and is envisaged as an oasis of nature, culture and peace, planted with diverse species including White Agapanthus and Liatris. A bright orange waterproofing membrane has been used to line the garden walls, and furniture designed by Kuri will be installed.
Forma, a long-established organisation which commissions and produces contemporary art projects, will utilise the studio rental income in the HQ to create a 24-month fellowship for an emerging curator to develop a meaningful cultural engagement programme for local residents, young people and the surrounding borough.
‘Artist-led from the start, it is fitting that an arts charity now occupies and breathes life into the space with artists studios and events programme for the garden that residents can enjoy,’ says Rinaldi.
Images courtesy Forma Arts & Media. Photography by Brotherton/Lock
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