Lottery grant gives student-designed New Wortley Community Centre building the go-ahead
Founded and managed by Architecture Lecturers, Simon Warren and Craig Stott, the PO has been formed as an architectural consultancy and sits under the umbrella of the University's School of Art, Architecture & Design (AAD). It gives Architecture students the chance to work with real clients outside Leeds Beckett, producing built and strategic design solutions with a particular emphasis on ethical, social and resilient architecture.
New Wortley Community Centre became the PO’s first client when it launched in January 2014, though AAD and its students have been working with the Centre for a number of years. The new building - which will be built based on designs by Leeds Beckett Architecture student (now a graduate) Vahagn Mkrtchyan - is expected to be completed in March 2016.
Last year the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme awarded funding of £55,700 which got the project underway. Now with the further funding of £686,674, New Wortley Community Association’s dream to launch a brand new building for the people of New Wortley will be realised.
A special event to celebrate the Big Lottery Fund announcement will take place at the current New Wortley Community Centre at 4.30pm today (Tuesday 17 February). Staff at the Centre’s café will bake a cake depicting how the new Centre will look.
Simon commented: “As a thriving Centre serving a committed community, New Wortley Community Association has been in urgent need of additional space for a number of years. We couldn’t be more delighted that the Big Lottery Fund has awarded the Centre this significant funding which will allow us to work together to create a new multi-purpose building. The new site will bring together community led commercial functions such as a café, a shop and community meeting rooms, that will enable the Centre to expand its reach and sustain itself in the future.
“Leeds Beckett Architecture students will continue to have an input into the Centre alongside the PO, as following further consultation with the Centre’s users, they will be involved in the detailed design of various aspects of the new building. They will also get the opportunity to experience site visits once the building work commences in July.”
Craig added: “New Wortley Community Centre is hugely valued not just by those who run it - but by those who use it. The project developed following Vahagn’s winning design for Leeds Beckett’s in-house design competition in 2010 which saw many students submit ideas for how the Community Centre could be. The students then undertook community consultation to find out exactly what was wanted from the Centre.”
New Wortley Community Association was founded in 1982 and works to provide services and support to the people of New Wortley, one of the most deprived parts of Leeds. The Community Centre is owned by the Community Association, and is a registered charity. It was the first community owned Community Centre in Leeds.
Bill Graham, lead worker on the project, said: “This funding is brilliant news for the New Wortley area. New Wortley is only a mile from Leeds city centre, yet it has some of the worst statistics for the city in terms of crime, health and life expectancy.
“The Centre is incredibly well used, but during the community consultation for this project we discovered that about half of the people surveyed said they wouldn’t come into the Centre because they were put off by the way it looks. It has railings around the outside and it’s not the most welcoming building; we need something that puts a bit of pride back into the community and this new Centre will do that.
“Our work with the Leeds Beckett Project Office on this is a prime example of what can be achieved when a mix of creative people and a community come together. We have been working with Simon Warren and Craig Stott, their team and the students for more than four years to get to this point, and the work that they have done and continue to do for us is terrific.”
Maureen Ingham, a New Wortley resident, who is on the Board of the Association and is a community activist for the area, added: “I have lived in New Wortley for 44 years and became associated with Community Centre when they were planning to build the existing Centre.
“The Centre is a vital part of what continues to be a deprived and neglected area of Leeds. We work with the people of New Wortley through the Centre and we turn people’s lives around. This Big Lottery funding is a huge step in the right direction for us to continue to do the work we do and to progress towards a future where the Centre can be self-funded. It means an awful lot to the community and we could not have achieved this without the help and expertise of Leeds Beckett’s Project Office.”
Photo: Architect's drawing of how the Community Centre will look.