The Green, London Nunhead review – happiness on a low budget

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The Green, London Nunhead review – happiness on a low budget
The Green community centre in Nunhead, south London, designed by AOC
The Green, London Nunhead review – happiness on a low budget
The Green community centre in Nunhead, south London, designed by AOC

A stylish new London community centre that meets its users needs and blends with its surroundings – what’s not to like?

Looking, as often, for signs that public architecture lives, I hear about the Green, a community centre by the architects AOC. AOC are a practice whose schools and housing mix up decoration and functionality, and serious architectural ambition with playfulness and iconoclasm. They are in the manner of the late lamented FAT, but in their own voice. The photos of the Green show something perky and intriguing, so I head off to Nunhead, south London.

Nikolaus Pevsner, in the relevant Buildings of England guide, didn’t think much of the area. “A sea of small late Victorian houses,” he called it, “spreading relentlessly over the hills, broken by… the open land of the cemeteries and waterworks further east.” The exceptions to this pattern “are too scattered to make a proper perambulation”. This is harsh: there is actually a pleasing variety in the landscape and buildings, with charming almshouses and irregular survivals from the time when this was a rural satellite of the city, before the railways and associated development engulfed it.

And, property values doing what they do, the area’s attractions have been spotted and valued – its green spaces, its villagey feel, the relative accessibility to the glass towers of the City, the Shard and Canary Wharf seen in vistas down its streets. So a population of homeowners of rising prosperity coexists with the residents of the council estates – extensive, if mostly low-rise and small-scaled – that the borough of Southwark built round here in the 1960s and 70s. […]

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