Sands End Arts and Community Centre

It being so blistering hot and not wanting to spend the whole of the hot weather in our back garden, I thought I would bicycle to see the Sands End Arts and Community Centre, the fourth of this year’s Stirling Prize nominees in London (one does slightly wonder how the shortlist is drawn up: the longlist is done by well-established regional committees and provides a wide conspectus of projects from all over the country, but it looks distinctly as if the shortlist is drawn up by the awards committee sitting in Portland Place without nearly such strong regional representation. I am happy to be corrected on this).

Anyway, Sands End Arts and Community Centre is a nice, small-scale urban project by Alex Ely of Mae Architects: very community oriented, with a big top-lit space for events (there were children in it this morning) and a café looking out onto a grove of walnut trees and a totally parched small urban park. It’s a bit of the city I don’t know: Parson’s Green – quiet and residential.

I can see why it’s been included on the shortlist because it is much more akin to what most architects do than bigger, flashier public projects and it fits well into its surroundings, replicating the form of the glasshouse which apparently previously occupied the site. I can’t quite see it winning, but who knows ? It will depend on the judges and I don’t think the judges have yet been announced, but are likely to include last year’s winner (Grafton Architects), Simon Allford, the President of the RIBA, and a celebrity.

This is what it looks like from the street, set behind a retained brick wall:-

These are views from the adjacent park:-

And this is the clerestory of the big flexible space:-

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