High-profile award for park café

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It has been a special few days for Lewes District Council’s Big Parks project team.

Along with Crofton Design, the building services consulting engineer with offices in Newhaven, and Kaner Olette Architects, the team have won the AJ (Architects Journal) Retrofit Awards for the Gateway Café, at Centenary Park.

The Gateway Café edged ahead as the winner of the AJ Retrofit Awards with a modest but hugely impressive scheme. It involved the re-use of an extremely basic and architecturally limited 1970s maintenance depot building to create a high-quality new café and a learning hub for archaeology, featuring sustainable construction techniques.

Councillor Andy Smith, Acting Leader of Lewes District Council and Project Board Chair said: “The board members and I are thrilled that Lewes District Council’s Big Parks Project won the Architects Journal Retrofit Award. The judges remarked on how much had been achieved with so little and liked the re-use of a building most would have demolished.

“The fact that an incredible 5,000 people attended Big Parks opening earlier this year further demonstrates the overall success of the project that involved many people.

“We worked closely with the whole team at Crofton Design and Kaner Olette Architects to produce a café that is attractive, benefits from low running costs, is energy efficient and has longevity built into it. The award is recognition for all involved in an outstanding community facility.”

Kaner Olette retained the masonry walls and concrete slab of the existing building as they were structurally sound and offered good thermal mass. They then added new sustainable technologies, including LED lighting, a highly-visible wood pellet boiler and solar panels. An asbestos roof was replaced with recyclable zinc and the exterior was insulated and reclad using local sweet chestnut, while sliding timber-clad screens protect the building at night.

Lewes District Council’s Big Parks Project provides a gateway to exploring the South Downs National Park. The £2.1m community-led project (funded by Southern Water and Bovis Homes) incorporates 30 acres and includes a central activity café, children’s playgrounds, new cycle paths, skate park, and sports facilities. In response to public feedback and the design team’s aspirations, this project is designed to educate and be enjoyed by all.

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