Where is the project located - please enter full address and postcode?
Who is the developer/client of the project?
Client: Lambeth Council End user: Friends of Windmill Gardens
Describe the context of this project and its contribution to the urban life and user experience of the place.
The new Education & Community Centre at Brixton Windmill, the last working windmill in London, was designed as a flexible building to support a range of community activities hosted by the Grade II*-listed landmark, to secure its use for future generations. Funds generated by a programme of events allow Friends of Windmill Gardens (FoWG) charity to continue its work preserving the heritage of Brixton Windmill.
The project was introduced to Squire & Partners in 2016 by local print designers Eley Kishimoto, the windmill’s cultural ambassadors in its bi-centenary year who created its iconic ‘Flash’ sailcloth. FoWG and Lambeth Council reached out to us to unlock the 10-year-stalled project by creating a design that acted as a catalyst to release funding from Lambeth Council. Submitted for planning in 2016, the building was completed in 2020.
Conceived as a simple and beautiful timber framed space, the building is designed to serve a variety of users – including school groups, adult education initiatives, community groups and local residents – and act as a platform for FoWG to showcase the historic mill and host Open Days and festivals. The main space and cafe are also able to be hired for events from birthday parties to weddings, to create revenue for FoWG. In addition, the centre facilitates the expansion of milling activities and the development of a social enterprise to sell Brixton Windmill flour to local bakeries, restaurants and shops, and to run baking workshops.
How has this project, event or installation enlivened the place in a creative way?
The centre is a completely flexible space that can be incrementally opened up to host a year-round programme of popular community, education and fundraising events. Internally, a series of low level units on rollers were designed to be used as tables, museum/shop displays and as storage, whilst also serving as a tool to configure the space according to various user requirements: units can be tidied away to open the space up completely, or organised as dividers to create a series of classrooms or areas. This versatility guarantees resilience and caters to all generations, bringing hundreds of visitors to the site each year.
A durable design and timeless materials are sensitive to this unique location and create an accelerated vernacular on the site of previous miller’s outbuildings complement this unique landmark and make the Windmill feel “at home”. A series of full height bi-fold glazed doors open onto a decked terrace overlooking Windmill Gardens, enabling the centre to be opened up for events which enliven the park and create a sense of place.
For decades the windmill suffered cycles of repair, neglect and vandalism. The surrounding site had fallen into dereliction and faced an uncertain future. The new centre’s animated use, versatility and beautiful yet respectful design has transformed the area into a friendly and lively part of the community. The site has been enhanced to create a true sense of place, and the windmill’s future has been secured.
What do you see as the greatest success of this project?
Brixton Windmill was placed on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register in 2002. FoWG was formed and began working to find it a viable future, but required a stream of revenue to do so. The centre has provided a new space and new opportunities for the charity, enabling them to generate funds to continue their important work preserving the Windmill’s heritage.
The flexible facility serves all members of the local community: from small children and toddlers coming to the playground and learning about windmills to people attending baking classes on their journey home from work to learn about full-cycle sustainable foods and whole-grain wheats. Increased footfall and interest in the site showcases the Windmill’s important history and celebrates its sustainable role in the local community.
The Windmill is a landmark for the local area and the Education & Community Centre marks a new phase in its future whilst simultaneously respecting and upholding its 200-year history to offer a symbol of hope for windmills and their communities everywhere.
Please share any data or figures that support your entry, for example increased footfall, happiness surveys, event attendance and/or observed changes in behaviour. Did it make a positive economic, social and environmental contribution? You may also attach any news clippings, testimonials, or additional images or documents to support your entry.
The centre opened in 2020 in the midst of the global pandemic. All visits and events were cancelled as a consequence and data is therefore unavailable. However, the long-awaited programme which includes school visits, windmill tours, tai chi classes, monthly gardening sessions and an annual Beer & Bread festival will return this year with attendee numbers expected to be high.
During this time of reduced activity, the centre became a community COVID testing site, diagnosing thousands of Brixton residents and helping stop the spread of the virus.
Jean Kerrigan, Chair of Friends of Windmill Gardens:
“Brixton Windmill has been at the heart of Lambeth for over 200 years. The opening of the education building is a momentous occasion for us and will allow FoWG to continue serving the local community by providing vital space for workshops, classes and our flour production.”
Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth’s Cabinet member for Equalities and Culture:
“I’m delighted that we have completed this project. The Windmill is such a valuable community asset and landmark for the borough. This new education centre will help people learn about the Windmill’s fascinating past and present, encourage more people to visit the site and create an important legacy for future generations.”