Scottish War Blinded Centre, Linburn
Scottish War Blinded Centre
LINBURN (UK) - Page\Park's architecture reflects the caring approach of the charity that commissioned it.
Scottish War Blinded was set up to care for servicemen and women blinded or otherwise visually impaired in the First World War. During the Second World War, the charity developed Linburn Estate into a small community of supported accommodation and workshops. At its most active, 75 men and women were taught craft skills and produced the furniture, metalwork and other items through which Linburn became known.
As these workshop buildings became obsolete and the needs of its users changed, Scottish War Blinded conceived of creating a different facility that could offer beneficiaries a broader range of opportunities focused on rebuilding social and life skills. The charity aimed to support its users to live more independently, rather than directly providing them with employment or retraining them in craft skills. Designed for the lower user number of 35, a greater range of facilities means that activities can be tailored to individual interests and requirements. People using the building mainly live within a 45-minute radius and most reach the site by a free transport service. The definition of war-blinded has also been extended to include war veterans who are going blind through old age and infirmity, rather than only as a result of war injuries.
The new Linburn Centre, designed by Page\Park Architects and clad in cream-stained Scottish larch, is nestled amongst trees in a quiet corner of the green estate. In plan, the building is a reversed S-shape. The circular embrace of the north-facing curve provides a welcoming approach. Entering the building through a lobby parallel to the building's line, the visitor is immediately directed along a corridor that follows the northern curves of the building and provides access to all of its major areas. With its rhythmic alternation of full-height window and wall, this corridor has the feel of a classical colonnade. The opposite arm of the building encloses the centre’s circular gar den. All of the main areas have direct access onto the garden, mediated by a generous timber fringe.
Occupying the full width of the building's core is the Hub, where much of the important socializing takes place and where hot meals are served to the centre's users. The Hub connects in one direction to an IT room, and in the other direction to the art room and then to the woodworking shop. All three rooms can be separately accessed from the corridor side. The teaching kitchen and plant room occupy the end of this part of the body. A little 'tail' of walling masks the rubbish bins and service access.
The other half of the building contains an exercise gym, games room and a single open-plan office for the centre's six staff. Another 'tail' at this end provides a potting shed, outhouse and greenhouse.
The sinuous plan is complemented by the subtle curving of the roof, whose shifting heights and switching profile give a changing three-dimensionality to the interior spaces, and individual character to the outer aspects of the building. On the garden side, the high roof provides the workshops with light, space and air. Over the more workaday rooms, the roof drops down in height and its overhang forms a generous sheltered veranda. On the opposite curve, the offices and corridor enjoy tall windows to the north. From there the roof gradually dips to provide a low, friendly shelter to the entrance.
Distributed along the central spine of the building are toilets, showers, storerooms, a remembrance room and one small meeting room. Clad in a continuous panelling of warm oak, this sequence of forms has its own distinctive presence and strength, almost acting as a backbone to the building's body. In the corridors, bold blocks of colour indicate the entrances of the different activity rooms. These colours provide drama to the otherwise calm environment and ensure the legibility of the building's layout, an aspect which of course drove much of its design. Underfloor heating fed from a ground source heat pump, high insulation, air-tightness and good natural lighting make for a comfortable, low-energy environment which both staff and users are enjoying. The high spaces are, however, causing some acoustic problems, and the sinuous curve of the building provides some challenges for supervision.
As well as providing the means for Scottish War Blinded to support the changing needs of its users, the new centre expresses architecturally the more open, responsive and caring approach that the charity is taking towards its beneficiaries in the 21st century.
August | 2011 | United Kingdom | Andrew Guest