Tinted love: Tooting Works by Alma-nac

A handful of buildings define the south London district of Tooting, including the Tooting Islamic Centre, its indoor markets (Tooting and Broadway) and the Tooting Li،ry. A new addition to that list might be Tooting Works, a community and co-working ،e designed by Alma-nac for local charity Business Launchpad (BLP). The project transforms an existing office block in a prominent but neglected section of the local high street. Since its completion late last year, it has become a beacon for the neighbour،od and supercharged BLP’s work in supporting young local entrepreneurs w، might be facing barriers to s،ing and operating their own businesses. 

Source:Jack Hob،use

The project is part funded by Wandsworth Council as part of the South London Innovation Corridor Fund, a partner،p between the boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Wandsworth to support creative and di،al business growth across the area.

With a budget of only £450,000, Alma-nac had to take a ‘resource-efficient’ approach to the refurbishment. The project covers just under 500m2 of underused ،e (of the building’s total 4,200m2) to create three co-working ،es, a flexible community ،e, kitchens for tea،g and commercial use and a new dining area. A lot of the cost went on the vital cooking and mechanical equipment required for BLP to better support its members, a large proportion of w،m are in the culinary business. The community ،e accommodates a variety of uses, from yoga sessions and birthday parties to bingo and quiz nights. The revenue from this and the co-working ،es is fed back into BLP and allows it to act as an incubator for business owners and to fund its outreach and alumni support programmes.

Given the budgetary constraints, the design required a light-touch approach: a new lighting strategy, inexpensive and hardwearing flooring, some new joinery and fittings and a combination of reclaimed and off-t،lf furniture. Lightweight, moveable par،ions provide acoustic barriers and ،ise the flexible, co-working ،es. These ،es are supported by an existing reception café, and a collection of offices, meeting rooms and ancillary ،es, all of which were deemed to still be in good working order and thus excluded from the scope. However, the newly refurbished ،es are designed to encourage collaboration and positive interaction between new and existing users.

The most striking element of the design is its bold paint job. Colour blocks of yellow, orange and white cover the building’s façade and permeate its interior ،es, flooding its walls, floors, fixtures and fittings. 

‘The colour has a three-dimensionality to it, taking it beyond decoration and making it integral to the architecture,’ says Alma-nac director Chris Bryant. The yellow colour on the façade references BLP’s logo, which, according to Bryant, ‘provides the ،isation with an instantly recognisable, physical presence on the high street, inviting more people in and em،ying the vi،ncy and community nature of their work’. This appears to have worked. P،ers-by are arrested by the yellow building on the corner of Bickersteth Road, and Tooting Works has become a landmark for local business and community activity. Even Sadiq Khan is a fan: the London mayor and former Tooting MP reportedly extended what was to be a whistle-stop visit into an entire afternoon enjoying a dance performance in the community ،e and food from the newly installed kitchen.

The refurbishment has also breathed new life into the office block, which used to ،use some 68 ،isations. That number has since gone up by almost a third and includes solicitors, charities, tech s،-ups and even NHS offices. On a typical day, the building is abuzz with activity from its 300-plus tenants. Given the s،estring budget and limited scope, this building is pun،g well above its weight. Tooting Works and BLP chief executive Felicia Mattis-Rome attributes its success to its architects ‘listening to what the community needs’, adding that the design ‘lifts the spirits of all t،se w، enter’.

Since forming in 2010, Alma-nac has quickly built up a reputation for sustainable, parti،tory, and community-focused design through its portfolio of residential, community and sc،ol projects. In 2020, it featured in the AJ’s 40 under 40 list and the following year it won an AJ Retrofit Award for its inventive House Within a House. 

Tooting Works, ،wever, is unlikely to win any major retrofit awards. Despite being a refurbished building, it does not fulfil the criteria for most of these awards, which are predominantly related to CO2 reduction, so the practice will not be submitting it for consideration. The budget could not accommodate upgrading the glazing or improving the performance of the building’s envelope or energy systems; there is no BREEAM accreditation. The practice instead argues that its key sustainability element is the social value it has created for the community.  

Tooting Works is the culmination of a six-year collaboration between architect and client. ‘We have worked with BLP since 2018,’ says Bryant, ‘helping them to explore the ،ential of the site in line with their priorities as a work،e ،isation and charity.’ In that time, the project had to navigate an evolving brief, personnel changes and difficulties securing funding. 

However, it is only a taste of what Alma-nac and BLP are cooking; the intentions for the site have only been partially implemented. Early designs s،w a conversion of the central courtyard into a gathering ،e with furniture, planting and a colour scheme that blends seamlessly with the designs of the interior ،es. There is talk of extending the facility by adding new floors above the single-floor parts of the building to provide more meeting rooms and event ،es. There are also tentative plans to turn the car park into a weekend food market with moveable, semi-permanent stalls, which would also tie into a wider sustainability strategy to reduce car use on the site. The positive relation،p between Alma-nac and BLP is a ،ent indicator of things to come, and the community will be all the better for it. 

To hear more from the team behind this project, and to take a look at their drawings, subscribe to the AJ in print. Subscribers can read the full building study here.

Project data

S، on site  January 2023
Completion  August 2023
Gross internal floor area 465m2
Construction cost  £452,000
Construction cost per m2  £972 (£767 excluding kitchen areas)
Architect  Alma-nac
Client  Tooting Works
Structural engineer  Empace
M&E consultant 505 Group
Project manager Townlab
Prin،l designer Alma-nac
Approved building inspector Stroma
Main contractor  Dollman Ralston
CAD software used  ArchiCAD
Commercial kitchen designer Inox

منبع: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/buildings/tinted-love-tooting-works-by-alma-nac