Sydenham Garden Resource Centre

Sydenham Garden Resource Centre & The NHS

Client’s Brief

Sydenham Garden provides gardening and creative opportunities for local people experiencing mental health issues, referred from over 30 community organisations and health sector agencies.

In 2010 Architype began working with client, Sydenham Garden Resource Centre, who required a building that was a fully equipped, flexible and comfortable space that allowed the Centre to deliver better services to more people within the community, whilst demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and respecting the integrity of the nature reserve.

Architype’s new building meets Sydenham Garden’s priorities and wider healthcare issues by providing private meeting areas for coworker inductions and 1-to-1 rooms for key workers to meet with clients. A new kitchen and spaces for their education and training needs have been incorporated into the design creating a truly safe place for co-workers and volunteers, as required by the client. Direct access into the beautiful garden, and carefully framed views of the planting activities ensure that the building integrates coherently into its setting and forms a close synergy with the external garden area.

On Site / Jul. ‘10
Completion / Apr. ‘11
Gross Floor Area
136 sqm
Construction Type
Timber – Structure and Cladding
Total / £500,000

An exemplar for sustainability… calming and uplifting.

Building Better Healthcare Awards

We’ve helped people return to work, to volunteer at other projects and get back into education – changing their lives following recovery from their mental ill health.

Staff Member

Planning Considerations

Being situated within a predominantly residential area and within an existing nature reserve the building location has been carefully considered to prevent the scheme from imposing on both privacy and environment. Located along the Northern boundary, on the least private area of the site facing a bowling green and pavilion, is the entrance to the Garden Centre along a clear and legible access route from the disabled parking zone.

The flat roof is planted with sedum to minimise the impact on the ground, providing a habitat for the wildlife and a more pleasing green outlook for the surrounding 3 storey residential buildings.

Through the consultation process, the scheme received unanimous support from the local community, with many signing up to become volunteers and who now continue to contribute their time towards the project.

Materials and methods of construction

The material for the exterior finish, Thermowood timber cladding, has been selected with consideration of its environmental characteristics, durability and ease of maintenance. The complete timber exterior offers a natural and warm appearance, exuding a sense of solidity and calmness; essential to create the right atmosphere for the co-workers well being.

The make up of the building is formed from a timber stud wall structure completed with super insulation and detailed with triple glazed windows, which significantly reduces the amount of heat loss.

The interior of the building is finished with organic, non-toxic paints and stains. The ceiling panels are cement-bonded wood wool, manufactured without the addition of chemical substances; they tolerate humidity, reduce noise and complement the architectural quality of the building.

The flooring comprises of natural linoleum made from linseed oil and jute, bamboo pre-oiled flooring and recycled tyre barrier matting at the main entrance doors. Overall the building is a true exemplar of sustainable design, simple in its form and complementary to its natural and calm surroundings representing a high standard of best practice in architecture.

A perfect example of how a small architectural intervention can help to improve lives.

An exemplar for sustainability … reminding people of their connection to the earth and nature.

A sense of solidity comes from the chunky timber, and spaces are full of natural light, which is calming and uplifting.

Best Mental Health Design, Building Better Healthcare Awards 2011

A low energy and environmentally friendly strategy for the building has been developed, within the constraints of the scheme needing to be simple and cost effective.

Bearing this in mind, the building has been constructed out of natural low embodied energy and toxin free materials, which include a chunky timber structure and all timber triple glazed windows. A sense of solidity is exuded from the naturally lit spaces created within the building with large windows and roof lights.

The choice of thermowood timber cladding, takes into consideration the materials’ environmental characteristics, durability and ease of maintenance. The internal finishes have been chosen under the same principles, bamboo pre-oiled floor and linoleum coverings have been used for the floor alongside non-toxic paints and stains for the wall finish and doors. Wood wool acoustic panels are installed to the ceiling with a fine natural finish.

The construction is made up of timber stud walls applied in two directions with timber I-Beams, to minimise the number of cold bridges and improve the overall airtightness of the building. The Centre is heavily insulated using full fill insulation, which helps to retain heat even in substantial cold weather.

Designed to Passivhaus principles; an MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery) System has been installed providing warm fresh air by recovering 90% of the heat from the used stale air during winter months. Natural ventilation is provided during the summer months by manually openable windows with an over ride option on the MVHR to provide forced air movement when required.

Renewables have been included in the form of a solar panel and an air source heat pump providing supplementary heat, low energy internal and external lighting.

Sedum planting covers the flat roof surface, which houses a drainage system directing greywater into the existing well. A two-meter roof overhang covers the south façade, providing solar shading to the large windows during hot summer months.


Sydenham Garden provides gardening and creative opportunities for local people experiencing mental health issues, referred from over 30 community organisations and health sector agencies.

As a user-centred service, co-workers and volunteers are very much involved in decision-making and service delivery. Co-workers are supported to set goals towards their own recovery, and attend sessions in therapeutic horticulture or arts & crafts, usually weekly for up to 18 months. The centre links co-workers with other activities in the wider community, including employment, volunteering, and new hobbies. Outcomes include improved mental and/or physical health, reduced social isolation, and increased confidence.

Architype embraced a similar approach through the design stages of the project. The client group and end-users involvement took the form of a well-organised and articulated consultation process, which helped to inform the designers and instill a sense of ownership amongst the community.

Addressing regulatory requirements, great care has been taken to ensure access for all. In terms of physical accessibility, all accommodation is located on ground level with flush thresholds incorporated at all doorways for wheelchair users and others between indoor areas and the gardens. The visually impaired have been considered with contrasting colours at thresholds.

Architype Team

Project Partners

Building Services Engineers
Internal Climate Systems
Structural Engineers
BUILT Engineers
Cost Consultant
Gordon Hutchinson
John Brown


  • Best Mental Health Design, Building Better Healthcare Awards 2011
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