The Kingston upon Thames Society Public Meetings try to cover a wide range of topics relating to planning and development in the Borough and the topics that usually work the best are those relating to specific projects. This was certainly the case when we were told the story of the New Quaker Centre in Fairfield East that was nearing completion.
Three speakers told us about the history and design of the building, its construction and its environmental features.
The Quakers had been looking to improve their premises for some time and had drawn up earlier plans for their previous site in Eden Street and a proposed site in London Road. The plans for Fairfield East reused ideas from these.
Low energy usage had been a design requirement from the outset but the number of trees on the site meant that solar was not a realistic option.
The building is heavily insulated which is good for keeping it warm when the weather is cold but causes a problem with heating when it is warm and the building is full. This had been fixed by an innovative design that circulates cool air from below.
To fit in with its surroundings, the building has an autumnal colour theme with lots of brick and a patinated zinc roof.
The only access to the site is via Fairfield East which made the site clearance and construction challenging.
Just getting big vehicles in and out was an issue and then they had to protect the roots of the trees too.
They are trying to get a pedestrian access via the Cattle Market (especially useful for people arriving by bus) but this had not yet been agreed with the Council.
There is parking for 20 bikes on the site. Residents are concerned about on-street parking in "their spaces".
Comments were made about the lack of fit with the Victorian houses in the road but the Centre is also next to a car park and bus station so there is no dominant theme in the area. In effect it is something like a pavilion in a park and it is definitely better than what was there before.
The building aroused a lot of interest among the Society members present and consideration was being given to arranging a visit there once it is open. It will also feature in the Heritage Open Days in September.
One of the speakers gave this good summary at the end, the Quakers have swapped a poor building on an expensive site for a good building on a cheap one.