Henley Halebrown Rorrison has completed a new GP surgery and community health centre in
Streatham, South London. The building has been delivered under the LIFT Initiative on behalf
of Building Better Health.
Baldry Gardens Health Centre is located at the junction of Baldry Gardens, a tree-lined
residential street and Streatham High Road, a major south London arterial. It is sited on a plot
where the land slopes gently from northeast to southwest and is surrounded predominantly by
brick buildings, with the exception of the complex of 4-5 storey flats to the south dating from
the 1960s that have recently been renovated and overclad with render.
The new 1,030 sq m 2-storey brick building replaces a single storey centre on the same site.
The building form is dictated by the constraints of the site, resulting in an L-shaped plan. This
form affords two wings of cellular rooms arranged either side of a central corridor separated
by a reception area and waiting room. Given the clinical setting, any conflict that might have
arisen between a daylit interior and a concern for dignity is resolved by placing clinical rooms
and consulting rooms on the 1st floor. The principal reception/waiting room is also located on
the first floor in a light filled double aspect space at the centre of the plan. The ground floor is
reserved for office accommodation, store rooms, plant rooms and a flexible suite for group
activities leading on to a walled garden.
Whilst the work of Henley Halebrown Rorrison usually places great significance in the plan as
an indicator of human relationships and how these may play out in space, here, it is the
section that dictates the logic of the scheme. The building’s elevations manifest that logic.
The entrance façade on Baldry Gardens is characterised by large structural openings on the
first floor, elevated about 3m above the pavement, framing recessed windows that illuminate
the consulting rooms and the waiting room at first floor level. Below, store rooms and plant
rooms create a blind elevation relieved by three flush glazed frames to an office.
The scale is designed to evoke a public building where windows are located high in a wall to
illuminate a large interior - a hall - or to recollect a classical composition with piano nobile.
The 2-storey building rises to 3 storeys where the two wings of the L-shaped plan converge,
concealing a third storey plant room and marking the entrance to the health centre.
Compositionally this tower is balanced by a stair tower at the Northeast end. The two towers
add further weight to the expanse of brickwork and create a vertical counterpoint to an
otherwise horizontal composition.
On the Southwest elevation the ground floor glazing into the communal room is masked by
the walled garden. This serves to accentuate the impression of a single storey building resting
on a monolithic storey of brickwork.
By comparison the rear elevation facing on to the complex of flats is less composed and the
arrangement of windows allows both floors of the building to be read.
The building is constructed of brick and block cavity wall with an intermediate structural
blockwork spine wall to one side of the central corridor. The chosen facing brick (Ibstock Mill
House Blend) is varied in both tone and hue and ranges from crème to pink to brown to
reflect the range of brick stocks in the locality. The variegated brickwork is pointed flush with
chocolate brown mortar to create a dense monolithic brick form.
Clay airbricks (in four colours) and weepholes achieved by the omission of mortar in the
perpends mean that there is no evidence of the often plastic building products associated with
contemporary brickwork. Flush precast copings are wet cast limestone and movement joints
are marked by dissonance in the brickwork patterns.
Metalwork used in external doors, railings and louvres – salmon pink, crème and two hues of
brown – seeks to caricature the brickwork. Windows are bronze anodised aluminium and
variously recessed and flush with a green glazing that complements the brick tones.
The entrance is recessed to accentuate the mass of the building. Inside interiors are designed
to create a calm and therapeutic environment.
A draft lobby opens onto a reception hall that is dominated by the stair to the first floor waiting
and reception. The glazed guarding which is obliged to be 1.55m high is framed in heavy
timber sections, which make for an unusually scaled - Alice in Wonderland - element.
Upstairs the waiting area is double aspect with windows orientated to the northwest and the
southeast. A secondary smaller ground floor reception serves the communal clinic and
accommodates out-of-hours services.
The clinical rooms are wide but shallow in plan and the size of the windows ensures that
spaces may be genuinely daylit and naturally ventilated. Clinical rooms that require
mechanical ventilation are located on the Streatham High Road elevation where noise levels
preclude natural ventilation
Built-in reception and consulting room furniture is ply and bespoke and provides a handmade
foil to the otherwise generic fixtures and fittings employed by the NHS.
This modest £3 million community building plays on its simple massing (the conjunction of
two wings), the extent of monolithic polychromatic brickwork and the distribution and apparent
scarcity of windows to give it an enduring but benign presence in the city.