Work starts on New Wortley community centre project
The project received a grant of £686,674 from the Big Lottery Fund earlier this year, with the new building being based on designs by Leeds Beckett Architecture graduate Vahagn Mkrtchyan.
The brand new centre is being built on part of the existing site on Tong Road, with building work starting on Wednesday 19 August. Every week, over 600 people make use of the New Wortley community centre’s facilities but the current building is over 30 years old now and has been well used. The new building is set to open in April 2016 and will house the majority of the centre’s services including the café, meeting rooms and shop. It is planned that the existing building will be refurbished and used as a wellbeing centre.
Students from across the Faculty of Arts, Environment & Technology at our University have been invited to be involved in bringing to life the new building, including those studying Architecture, Graphic Arts & Design, Landscape Architecture and Design, Design Product, Interior Architecture & Design, and Cultural Studies & Humanities.
Founded and managed by Architecture Lecturers, Simon Warren and Craig Stott, the PO was formed as an architectural consultancy in January 2014 and sits under the umbrella of our University's School of Art, Architecture & Design (AAD). It gives Architecture students the chance to work with real clients, producing built and strategic design solutions with a particular emphasis on ethical, social and resilient architecture.
Speaking about the new centre, Craig Stott said: “The construction phase of the project is going to be used as a learning tool for architecture students, with them being taken on site and experiencing first-hand the consequences of constructing what we have designed. These visits will form part of their modules with learning and teaching coming directly from it.
“The Project Office is extremely excited that work on the New Wortley Community Centre has finally begun thanks to the efforts of many students and individuals over the past six years, and with a huge thank you to the Big Lottery for funding the project. The new centre will have a significant impact on the quality of life for many within the community and allow the terrific work that the centre currently undertakes to expand. In addition the fact that so many students will gain valuable knowledge from such a socially conscious venture really makes all the hard work put in by many hands to date worthwhile.”
The news of work starting on the centre was featured on Made in Leeds TV – click here to view their report.
Maureen Ingham, Vice Chair of the New Wortley Community Centre, said that she felt elated that work has started on the new centre: “When people come through the door it turns their life around. It may just be three hours with a cup of tea. It maybe that there’s a social event gone on and somebody’s asked them to join in and they don’t realise that they’ve been propelled forward and out of that social isolation.”
New Wortley Community Centre was the PO’s first client, though AAD and its students have been working with the centre for nearly six years.
Simon Warren commented: “As a thriving centre serving a committed community, New Wortley Community Association has been in urgent need of additional space for a long time now. We are really pleased 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.”
Craig added: “New Wortley Community Centre is hugely valued 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.”
Bill Graham, lead worker on the project, said: “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 Project Office at Leeds Beckett University is a prime example of what can be achieved when a mix of creative people and a community come together.”