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Robert Coakley Buill 1166 Building Environments & Construction Case Study Finsbury Health Centre


Architect:Architect Berthold Lubetkin, originally from Georgia, was the architect behind the Finsbury Health Centre. Lubetkin studied art in Moscow, was born in 1901 and died in 1990. Lubetkin believed that art and architecture could make a political point and has been quoted saying “Nothing is too good for ordinary people” Lubetkin considered the centre to be a relaxed, communal club, to inspire the public to use the centres services by making them feel comfortable using them. “They can just drop in” Date of build: The process of building the Finsbury Health Centre began, including all planning until final construction, in 1937 and ended in1938. The centre was notorious both for its architectural class and its new methodology to centralized health. It was a building there was no precedent for, and is often considered the first modernist design even commissioned by a public client with a political constituency, which was revolutionary in the 1930’s. In 1936 Tecton pre sented 4 designs, the costliest design was chosen due to its high stories and better quality finishes. The design was originally estimated to cost £55,000 but difficulties on the build saw the total cost rise to over £61,000. Purchase of the site from the Marquees of Northampton was only finalized early in 1937, despite plans for the Health Centre. Other Lubetkin projects of the period include: the Priory Green, Spa Green and Hallfield Estates.ConstructionThe Centre included murals by Gordon Cullen telling visitors to “live out of doors” as much as you can, designed to encourage the people of Finsbury to also take ownership of their own health outside of the medical centre. It was while the centre was serving as a World War II first aid station that the murals were white washed over. History: Dr Chuni Lal Katial was the chairman of the public health committee who contacted architectural practice Tecton who commenced a plan for a centre. Lubetkin was Tecton’s leading architect of the time and was the idyllic man for the job.


In 1970 the centre was listed as a special architectural interest and later became Grade 1 listed. Watkins Gray Woodgate refurbished the interior in 1982, by this time many of the original services were deplete, and the centre, despite remaining a health centre, offered different services. In 1988, on the 50th anniversary of the centres existence, Islington Health District commissioned Avanti Architects to review the buildings exterior with site to restore the buildings exterior. John Allan of Avanti Architects knew Lubetkin himself and had restored Lubetkin’s London Zoo penguin pool. Allan’s report highlighted corrosion in many parts of the centre, including: external columns, retaining walls and canopies, Allan reported that almost all external concrete surfaces required treatment from weathering and deterioration. Allan’s report also showed that a lot of the exterior tiling was either cracked or completely missing. The distinctive glass bricks seen immediately at the entrance of the building have all been replaced over time with larger bricks. To this day all of the centres window frames are original despite being severely corroded. All of the centre’s insulated glass was replaced as most of it had been cracked due to sandbagging during the war. The cost of Allan’s planned restoration was estimated at £1,200,000; however, he was only given £350,000 to complete the restoration.During World War II, the centre was turned into a bandaging centre for wounded civilians . Despite the centre not being bombed itself, the threat of bombardment saw sandbags being piled onto and around the centre not long after the building was finished. The sandbagging resulted in many of the entrances glass bricks cracking under the weight of the protective bags.In March 2008, the Islington Primary Care Trust announced that they were left helpless but to sell the building. On 18th August 2008 a petition was started to prevent a sell-off of the Finsbury Health Centre and removal of its services, the petition was handed to Alan Johnson, British labour party politician, in January 2009 with over 1800 signatures, and provoked a letter from Ben Bradshaw, the Minister for Health Services. On January 29th 2009 the Islington Primary Care Trust (now NHS Islington) agreed to move the services from Finsbury Health Centre and sell the building.


A 1:5000 map of my journey to the Finsbury Health centre from Farringdon station


These are all my own images taken from my first visit to the Finsbury Health Centre, shown in my own layout. Each image has a coloured dot at the bottom of it (central) which corrisponds to a matching dot on the map, this shows where the picture was taken.


My first impressions of the Finsbury Health Centre suprised me. As i had pre-researched the building and found out about its groundbreaking characteristics for it’s time, I assumed that the buildings keeping and mainatance would be ofhigh order. However, I have greeted by a front facade of broken bricks and tiles. Despite being able to see the buildings interesting structures, materials and facades, I could not help but feel the building could have been looked after better. I also wondered what the building would have looked like with allof its service pipes placed on the buildings exterior as originally designed by Berthold Lubetkin.


For this section, I looked at the airflow within the Finsbury Health Centre as well as how air can get in and out of the building. After discovering that the Centre featured a wet ceiling heating system, I evaluated the downward path of warm air throughout the Finsbury Health Centre due to the ceiling heating. In addition to the ceiling heating, radiators were also added as the ceiling heating took a while to heat up. Here I have taken an existing plan of the buildings’ basement and gone over the top with red lines to represent the flow and distribution of the hot water for the heating. I have also colour coded sections of the building according to how they are heated. For example, the riser closest to the top right hand room heats only tat room on this floor. This is shown by that section being a different colour to the other heating segments within the building.


in this section of 01AIR I began to look at the air movement within the Finsbury Health Centre, I began by showing the downward movemt of hot air (Right) caused by the ceiling heating system within the Finsbury Health Centre. As hot air rises, most of the heat will cling to the ceiling and eventually fall through to the rest of the building. The heating strips within the ceiling are set in con cret, which absorbs and holds a large amount of the heat conveyed by the system, helping to heat the Centre.

As the ceiling heatem system can take a while to heat up, the Centre has also more recently installed radiators within the building. These are much faster to heat the building and it could be argued convey heat in a more efficient way, with the ht air rising from the radiator to the ceiling, moving along the ceiling and then falling to the floor in corners. The ceiling heating system is now redundant but i believe this was part of Lubetkins’ revolutionary design of modernism. Left is my drawing of the convection of hot air within one secting of the buildings frontal waiting room.


Whilst looking at 02LIGHT i tried to examine different aspects to the buildings’ light, looking at artificial and natural light aswell as how shadows fall both on and within the building due to both light sources.I took these images to present aspects of the Health Centre that either create, or display light, with the windows allowing light through into the building. Artificial lighting lighting the interior and shadows being caused on the buildings’ exterior.


For this section, I looked at the suns path over the Finsbury Health Centre, from this information I created a diagram of the suns angle and height at different times during the day and within different seasons. I also looked at how light gets into the centre. One light access point I found very interesting is the glass brick build constructed wall at the front of the building. This allows light to project through the glass, making the beams more concentrated. I did a drawing of how light gets through these bricks and where shadows will be, this can be seen on the following page. The distinctive glass bricks seen immediately at the entrance of the building have all been replaced over time with larger bricks. To this day all of the centres window frames are original despite being severely corroded. All of the centre’s insulated glass was replaced as most of it had been cracked due to sandbagging during the war. The cost of Allan’s planned restoration was estimated at £1,200,000; however, he was only given £350,000 to complete the restoration.


Here is my drawing of the windows on the North West side of the building. The windows cover the entire North West facade of the building. The window sills are made from steel and teak. To create the image i used a picture I took on my original visit to the Finsbury Health Centre and placed the image over a lightbox, this allowed me to trace the dominant lines of the window frames.


Here are some of my own photographs of the Finsbury Health Centre, in these images i tried to show some of the ground and materials that interested me from the building. The most notable in the glass brick facade at the front of the building, this wall allows a great amount of light in to acheive Lubetkins “open feel� plans. othr interesting materials include cream coloured clay tiles, steel and teak window framed and the combination of these materials


Here is my drawing of the windows on the North East side of the building. The windows make up a curved glass feature wall on the North West facade of the building. The bricks bring lots of light into the building as the inner circles of the bricks (seen in my drawing) magnify the light. To create the image i used a picture I took on my original visit to the Finsbury Health Centre and placed the image over a lightbox, this allowed me to trace the dominant lines of the bricks.


Here is an image i have created using an existing plan of the basement I found on the internet. On top of the plan i have added red lines to indicate where water for the heating system will travel around the basement, starting at the two boilers seen to the right. The cycle will consist of a flow and return looping the building by entering the buildings buildings’ 8 risers. The risers allow the pipes to access other levels of the building to heat them. I have also used colour coding to represent how the buildings’ ceiling heating would have worked. The ceiling heating will be separated into 8 sections (one for each riser) all the way up the building, each section of the building will then be heated by rise This image is how i the relevant or closest riser. believe the hot water system (for ceiling heating) works within the Finsbury health centre. I repeated the same process again using green lines to show cold water coming from the risers where necessary. This system begins at the top of the building near the theatre at the back of the building which is where the water tank would be situated. As this system uses gravity to create pumping water and valves to reduce heavy flow, the water runs down the piping for the cold water, which runs along the same risers as the heating system, all the way up the building. The cold water is required for: Hand was basins, baths and toilets.


This diagram is based on a plan of thew building I found on the internet, the diagram shows my proposed layout of the mains water system, as in the basement only 2 services require mains water, here i have shown the mains water entering the centre from thew street and then finding its way to the Head Room.


This diagram is based on a plan of thew building I found on the internet, the diagram shows my proposed layout of the mains water system, as in the base ment only 2 services require mains water, here i have shown the mains water entering the centre from thew street and then finding its way to the Head Room. The diagram also shows the elctrical and hot & cold running tank water throughout the building, aswell as the buildings piping for its famous wet ceiling heating system.


Here is my diagram of how electrics could be fed throughout the Finsbury Health Centre (yellow) as well as other services. From the buildings’ original plans that can be found on the internet, I found the access point and main switchboard for the building, from here I knew that the water boilers and pumps would both need power, as well as access to each of the risers to allow power to move upwards within the building. Heating ducts and plumbing were transferred inside the building by the council, which altered one of Lubetkin’s main guiding principles. This infuriated Lubetkin and led to him to refusing to visit the centre for over 40 years.


This diagram is based on a plan of thew building I found on the internet, the diagram shows my proposed layout of the centre’s wet celing heating system, aswell as the hot and cold running water and the electrical services.


For many of my own images i used an existing plan of the Finsbury Health Centre and superimposed servical pipes and paths ontop using a colour coded system. I found this original plan of the Centre. I found this plan very useful as it allowed me to know where the risers, boilers, pumps and main switchboards are. This allowed me to make educated guess’ as to where the Centre’s services would have been run between each riser and its cycle or entry and exit of the building.


Despite being disallowed access to the buildings interior, i did manage to get a couple of snaps of the buildings’ waiting frrom at the entrabce of the building. The waiting room features the famous brick wall. To create this image i traced the dominant line of my own photograph of the waiting room.


Here is my proposal for a gravity grey water recycling system within the building. This would involve creating slopes on the roof made from tapered insulation with a waterproof membrane sheet. These slopes would create gravitational force pushing rainwater into a gully on the roof, show in my proposal. The rain water flows down a RWP (Rain water pipe) and branches off into a filter. Some of the rain water captured will go towards local reed banks as not all of the rain water can be collected in the grey water tank. After going through filtration we now have grey water, which can be used in WC’s. There would be a grey water tank storing this water controlled by a ball valve which isolates the water when the tank is full. This grey water then runs along GWP (Grey water WC Out of grey water pipes) into WC’s. tank also comes an overflow as a safety device. When the grey water is flushed, it discharges into a SVP (Soil vent pipe) which leads the foul to a sewage plant.


Here is y drawing of the South West side of the building. To create the image i placed an image i took on one of my visits to the building over a lightbox and traced the dominant lines of the picture. In the picture was some industrial boarding (front of picture) i left this steel fencing in the picture as i believe redevelopment would be a huge part of the buildings’ future if it were to take place.


BUIL1166 Finsbury Health Centre DRAFT Workbook  

BUIL1166 Finsbury Health Centre DRAFT Workbook. Robert John Coakley

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