The innovative award-winning multi-purpose New Wortley Community Centre (NWCC), designed and built under the leadership of Leeds Beckett University’s Project Office officially opens this month.

Academics, Simon Warren and Craig Stott, have led the project every step of the way since plans began in 2009, before taking it on as their first major commission after founding the University’s Project Office back in 2013. Guided by Project Office, Leeds Beckett University’s School of Art, Architecture and Design (AAD) students were also instrumental. The community-run centre opened its doors last summer on Leeds’s Tong Road and houses services including a café, meeting rooms and a shop.

The opening day will see the community celebrate everyone who helped turn the dream of building the centre into a reality. There will also be a photographic exhibition at the launch, which documents the journey of the building’s creation from plans to completion.

In April Simon and Craig travelled to Portland State University in Oregon, USA to collect an international design award for the NWCC. The pair reaped the rewards of the vision and hard work when Project Office was named as one of two winners in the ‘Live Projects Network’ category of the prestigious 2017 Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Awards.

Speaking about the official opening of the Centre, Simon commented: “The building is making a huge contribution to the community and it simply puts a smile on my face each time I visit.  It is always friendly, welcoming and busy. I remind myself that this is a project of immense collaboration and everyone deserves credit for getting involved, using diverse skills and knowledge to make it a great example of community action.”

Craig said: “The architectural concept is a ‘work of many hands’, where discrete elements have been the design responsibility of specific student participants. Project Office has choreographed the work into a singular architectural statement which truly fulfils the original client brief requiring an ‘inspirational multi-purpose space with commercial functions enabling the centre to expand its reach and sustain itself in the future.’

“Live project learning and co-design between courses is a key component in the student experience at Leeds Beckett, where exposure to working professionally in multi-disciplinary environments equips students with the necessary skillset for professional careers whilst simultaneously providing vital support for third sector organisations in the Leeds City region.”

Project Office, which is run by Simon and Craig, was formed as an architectural consultancy and sits under the umbrella of Leeds Beckett University’s School of AAD, giving students at the University a chance to work with real clients, producing built and strategic design solutions with a particular emphasis on ethical, social and resilient architecture.

Funded by The Big Lottery, the new building has been seven years in the making with a total of 196 people participating directly in the project. From New Wortley locals to multi-disciplinary undergraduates, postgraduates and staff from Leeds Beckett, plus professional consultants and contractors – all working together to bring the building to life, while being coordinated and led by Project Office.

The new building is already incredibly well used – open more than 70 hours a week and hosting a range of activities including adult education, health services, Eastern European School, The Dry Sports Café and a range of creative inclusive activities. In the February census more than 900 people came through the doors over a one-week period.

Bill Graham, NWCC’s Community Leader, said: “It’s a fantastic looking building that really lifts the area and offers a visible symbol of hope to the local community. We plan to attract more investment and partners to the area to give New Wortley residents the opportunities they deserve.

“New Wortley Community Association, who owns the centre, is a charity founded and run by members of the local community. The board of trustees, staff and volunteers work in conjunction with other local projects, charities and public sector organisations to help residents of the local area improve their quality of life, raise aspirations and offer hope and opportunity to the people of New Wortley.

“The Centre is already well used by local residents and provides a range of activities including volunteering, adult education and health and wellbeing.

In the last 12 months more than 20 local residents have found employment after volunteering at the centre. We have some great individual stories of how lives have been turned around to bring a real life aspect to the investment in the area.”

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