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Poll: would you like to alternative options to save Forest Hill Pools and Louise House
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No
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Save Forest Hill Pools
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alexis


Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2008
Post: #1
04-03-2008 09:49 PM

I am unhappy with the arguements put forward by the council for the demolition of both Louise House and Forest Hill Pools. Both these buildings provide an ideal period setting for the Library and primary school, forming a group of interesting and high quality Victorian civic buildings. Forest Hill has lost many of its historic buildings and it certainly doesn't need to lose any more.

As a senior designer with a large firm of architects I am wholly unconvinced by the assurances of the local council of a high quality replacement to these buildings. In my practice we have frequently found ways to keep period buildings such as these (which are a valuable asset in their own right) without compromising on the benefits to the community or significantly increasing costs. My practise recently carried out the refurbishment of Brockwell Lido. All it takes is some imagination, care and commitment.

Does anyone agree with me? I am keen to find some way to fight this decision by proving there is another way forward. Obviously all welcome and the more the merrier but architects, engineers, developers etc particularly welcome

Alexis Butterfield

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Perryman


Posts: 809
Joined: Dec 2006
Post: #2
05-03-2008 12:09 AM

We have already been consulted. We gave them the wrong answer, but luckily we have been corrected.
In summary "we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

Indeed how could the refurbish project go ahead with such uncertainties.

And in this spirit I'm currently refusing to re grout the tiles in my bathroom - who knows what I might find - the only answer is to demolish the room, start again and sell the garden and living room to pay for it.

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Renzon


Posts: 30
Joined: Jun 2007
Post: #3
05-03-2008 12:53 AM

I absolutely agree with you Alexis. As a conservation architect living not far from the Forest Hill Pools, I also favour keeping as much as possible of existing buildings (provided they are worthy structures). But as a relative newcomer to Forest Hill I fear that the wheels were put in motion for a competely new-build scheme before I came.

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thenutfield


Posts: 235
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #4
05-03-2008 01:20 AM

the old pools are.....old, but are they very nice? I always thought (still do) that they were the worst sort of Victorian architecture - lumpen, ugly, looking more like a workhouse than a place to enjoy yourself and get healthy!
We cant save everything just because it is old. 100+ years is a good innings for the old place, now lets look to the next 100 (ok, modern building, lets say 30) years and build something great for our kids!

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davyj1


Posts: 11
Joined: Mar 2008
Post: #5
05-03-2008 08:44 AM

Thank you Alexis. I would certainly be interested to hear the case and the possibilities of what could be done to maintain some of the existing architecture and if it could be presented to the council as cost effective.

People say 'the wheels are in motion' but are they really if the build won't begin until 2009? If the project for a rebuild is going out to tender then why can this not include a quote based on maintaining the original facade?

I do however also agree with 'thenutfield' that the pool building isn't THE most beautiful creation ever designed. If the new designs do indeed look classy and beautiful in a modern way (like the Horniman extension) then that would be preferable to a half hearted 'facelift' job.

For me it all comes down to what the new plans look like. If they look like a pile of c**p then we would definitely need to apply more pressure on the council.

In the meantime, yes, it would be great to hear from any experts in the design and building fields.

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michael


Posts: 3,205
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #6
05-03-2008 10:08 AM

I can understand why many people do like the pools as they are. It has been there for over 120 years and it is a landmark building where many of us learnt to swim. But I do not agree with the idea that they fit perfectly with the library. The library is a lovely building with brick, sandstone, leaded windows, a turret, and grade 2* listed status.

Louise House and the Pools may have some architectural merits but they do not fit with the library, in fact I find them to be all the worst aspects of Victorian architecture, with grand frontages that seem designed to be more intimidating than welcoming. The pool is built with an entrance that is not disabled accessible but is so vital to the building that not using it as the main entrance will only highlight its inadequacy as a building.

Looking inside there are many more reasons why this building, in its existing format, is not suitable for the 21st century. Having to walk along the poolside the get the changing rooms means that swimmers get muddy feet and there is always the risk that somebody will fall/be pushed in fully clothed. The roof has had to be replaced every 10 years, the pool walls leak, the water circulation is not ideal (going from one pool to the other), the changing facilities, shower facilities and toilet facilities are all not what is expected from a modern swimming pool. Many of us stopped going to the Forest Hill pools many years ago as it was never a particularly pleasant experience.

This is a chance to have a leisure centre that more people use, with modern pools that will not need to be closed down again in 10 years time. the refurbishment option was never going to be a ultimate solution and many people backed it only as a way to make sure we had two pools until the council took account of Louise House and gave us the swimming facilities that we need on the site.

Both building would need considerable work to bring them up a reasonable standard and the project with the pool carries significant risk including complete collapse of the pools (especially if we ask the team that 'renovated' the house in Westbourne Drive - the one that collapsed). We can either taker a gamble on the existing building which includes waiting 18 months for the foundations to dry out before any structural work can begin, or we can put our efforts in a well designed new building.

We need to think not about the Victorians who built these buildings but today's children who have to travel miles to the nearest pool and cannot go swimming after school in the local area. It may not be a pleasant conclusion for some people, but in my personal opinion the conclusion is clear - do not save the existing buildings.

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robwinton


Posts: 335
Joined: Jun 2006
Post: #7
05-03-2008 10:39 AM

I have, initially reluctantly, come to the same conclusion as Michael.

I was all for retaining the building or incorporating the facade as there is little enough distinctive architecture in this area. However, when I think back to when the pool was still open and I had just moved to the area, I did pop my head in to take a look for when I could go there with my baby daughter and I was concerned. I worried about the state of the place, the location of the changing rooms, the steps, the cleanliness, etc. I might have gone anyway, but I was not convinced.

A refurbishment might address many of these issues, but they would also be compromises - disabled & pram access, parking, light, etc.

When the new facilities had to fit into the footprint of the existing building, retaining it made much more sense, but we have the option of starting again across the whole area including Louise House and really making this a destination for ourselves and our neighbours, the kind of thing that will also revitalise the economy of Forest Hill.

I am now convinced that a rebuild is the better option BUT we must be convinced about the design and the facilities, and that the way the building and facilities are managed will not mean this too will fall into disrepair in a few years time.

The Victorians built the pool to give people access to pools for their health, not to build a monument, so let's keep the best parts of that spirit and build the kind of place we really want for ourselves and our families.

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grahamw


Posts: 58
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #8
05-03-2008 10:47 AM

I'm an architect (I work for the practice that designed the main Horniman extension building), and I agree with Michael and thenutfield. Old buildings shouldn't be saved just because they're old, but because they are of merit - architecturally, functionally and socially.
We're used to working with old buildings, some of them exceptional and some pretty grotty. The crucial question here as far as I can see is not whether the old pool building should be saved, but what is the design for the new pool.

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roz


Posts: 1,790
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #9
05-03-2008 10:59 AM

Michael has made very concise and pertinent points.
I have personally used the pools for over 20 years and whilst have found them very convenient and cheap, by no stretch of the imagination did they provide a nice swimming experience, and not just because of lousy management and cleanliness. I appreciate the sentiment around retention but would be very concerned at any overemphasis on retention and predominance of concern for the streetscape over function and userfriendliness, and basically of any further delay in reprovision. Pools are notoriously expensive to build, develop and run, and do not really work in older buildings unless you are prepared to pay shedloads of (public) cash to run complicated vapour extraction,ventilation and heating systems. There are also energy efficiency, costs in use, and accessibility issues to consider.

With respect to Alexis, Brockwell Lido is not in the same category- it is a much simpler structure than FH Pools. My own concern about the Lido is that is not heated- if it were so,cheaply using solar power, it could be used well into the winter months. We tried it once last summer and gave up after a few minutes as it was absolutely freezing. If I wanted a cold dip I'd have tried the Serpentine.

I share the concerns about the Councils ability to replace the pool with a sound attractive and user friendly building, but this is no reason to continue the argument for retention. As a long standing local resident I would be furious if the conservation lobby set out to frustrate the now inevitable process of providing a new building .

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Renzon


Posts: 30
Joined: Jun 2007
Post: #10
05-03-2008 11:23 AM

I am not against new-build but I feel it is important that the designers of the new scheme should familiarise themselves with the history of the existing pools and gain an appreciation of the site and neighbouring buildings.

Unfortunately I get the feeling from the two perspectives shown on another thread that this is not the case. The drawings show a typical glorified shed with some boring curved roof structure and steel supports, with large looking mature trees dotted about (which would take years to grow to). These drawings only serve the function of impressing clients in the boardroom, with little respect to the context of the site.

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ForestGump


Posts: 202
Joined: Jan 2008
Post: #11
05-03-2008 11:40 AM

And if the new design is not to your liking?

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Perryman


Posts: 809
Joined: Dec 2006
Post: #12
05-03-2008 12:07 PM

Surely surely everyone can agree that until we know what the plans for any new build are, we need to keep the existing building and the option for refurbishment?

If the Louise House site and the park are to have luxury homes/an estate built on them, that is a very different proposition to the pools site expanding to become a leisure centre, with a sports hall etc.

Sure, something like the Bridge could be squeezed in the pools site, 2 pools, fitness centre, meeting room, but what about parking? The Bridge is supposedly under utilised, but its carpark is enormous and pretty much full.

I hate cars and ideally FH would be a pedestrian zone, but until that day, I recognise people want to drive to swimming pools and without suitable parking facilities, the resource will be under utilized.

If you start working backwards, and are looking for a non prime, reasonably accessible site for a local pool/leisure centre in SE23, with room for parking, then this is not the place. (Honor oak recreation grd perhaps?).

The only logical reason we should have a pool at this site is a very important historical one, and that is about to be bulldozed away.

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michael


Posts: 3,205
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #13
05-03-2008 12:08 PM

ForsetGump Wrote:
And if the new design is not to your liking?


Then I shall campaign against this design as I have successfully campaigned against Tyson Road development, Manor Mount, Red Cross site on London Road, and with some success on the Finches site.

The council have agreed to work with the Sydenham Society and the Forest Hill Society and the FH Society has put together a group of swimmers and architects to work with the council on this consultation on the design process. We intend to ask probing questions but to work in a constructive and honest way. The FH Society welcome the opportunity to have this input and intend that it will give us a building of which all people in Forest Hill can be proud (and use).

The drawings op the other thread as I understand it were provisional sketches based on keeping Louise House and only demolishing the pools. This option has now been completely defeated and the larger site should give us the opportunity to get a well designed building. If the council proposes a shed to replace two well respected buildings then they will find there are a lot of people opposing their plans at every opportunity they get. If this means we end [/quote]up without anything there, that is better than a eyesore for 50 years, and we can wait for a few years for a the council to give us the right design - but I do not think it will come to that.

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robwinton


Posts: 335
Joined: Jun 2006
Post: #14
05-03-2008 01:03 PM

Turning to positive matters, and trying to get a list of requirements that would satisfy us, then seeing how best to achieve them, would it be feasible to make this an "eco" project that would help to minimise running costs and give it a design purpose beyond simply building a new leisure centre?

The Council might be able to get more grants for this and it would certainly help towards the council's 'green' targets.

In exchange we might have something we can be proud of as well as a useful local resource.

CALLING ALL ARCHITECTS OUT THERE (who seem to have surfaced though these threads): how feasible is this? Are there grants out there we could call on, and experts to help us? What sort of elements would this include? Recycling, local wildlife, alternative energy, etc.

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IWereAbsolutelyFuming


Posts: 531
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #15
05-03-2008 02:19 PM

Not adding anything that hasn't been said by michael, robwinton, grahamw etc already;

At the risk of being branded a hater of period buildings (see the misunderstood posts I've made elsewhere on the forums) which I'm very much not ... I've never really understood the high regard in which the buildings concerned are held. Sure they are old but, externally at least, unimpressive and with frontages that are ill-at-ease with the rest of the structures. And crucially they do not serve the community well.

As others have also said, that doesn't mean I'll sit back and accept a metal warehouse replacement but expect a landmark development that works well functionally and acts as a growth pole for regeneration around Dartmouth Road and Forest Hill in general.

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grahamw


Posts: 58
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #16
05-03-2008 03:08 PM

In terms of getting the best quality, I would suggest lobbying Lewisham Council to set up an architectural competition (if it's not too late). This can be done through the RIBA, and is a good way of local societies to have their say - make sure representitives from FHS are on the panel of judges.

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grahamw


Posts: 58
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #17
05-03-2008 03:18 PM

robwinton Wrote:
Turning to positive matters, and trying to get a list of requirements that would satisfy us, then seeing how best to achieve them, would it be feasible to make this an "eco" project that would help to minimise running costs and give it a design purpose beyond simply building a new leisure centre?

The Council might be able to get more grants for this and it would certainly help towards the council's 'green' targets.

In exchange we might have something we can be proud of as well as a useful local resource.

CALLING ALL ARCHITECTS OUT THERE (who seem to have surfaced though these threads): how feasible is this? Are there grants out there we could call on, and experts to help us? What sort of elements would this include? Recycling, local wildlife, alternative energy, etc.


Yes there are grants available for some sustainable elements of a project, but generally it's down to the developer. London development guidelines are pretty stringent these days anyway so its likely that some sustainable elements / renewable energy would be included. The sort of thing would be solar water heating, ground source cooling (boreholes), biomass boilers, green roofs, rainwater harvesting and re-cycling and careful attention to specification of materials. Most of these are standard in schemes at the moment, and are fairly easy to incorporate. Again, I'd suggest making this part of the competition brief.

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alexis


Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2008
Post: #18
05-03-2008 09:20 PM

My argument for looking at genuuine alternative options to save the present buildings is certainly not one against good modern buildings being added to the site. Rather it is one against the brutal 'all or nothing scenario' which has been put forward by the council and appears to be supported by a number of responders to my initial comments. Personally I delight in the contrast of old and new - exactly as has been achieved at the Horniman Museum. The incorporation of the best of the historic fabric within the new complex that we would all like to see need not compromise the facilities that the site can offer.

The buildings as they stand are not finest examples of Victorian architecture, but they hold an important place in our local history and townscape and they shouldn't be discarded as thoughtlessly as it appears they will be. They are a valuable asset and it is sad to find fellow architects in particular so immune to the power of this form of memory in our built environment.

Yes, preserving elements of our past whilst effectively providing for the needs of today is more challenging than wiping the slate utterly clean, but it can also enrich our environment in untold ways. Surely this is a challenge worth rising to.

I don't think I am far off the mark in saying that the vast majority of Forest Hill residents would at least like to see the Dartmouth Road frontage to the baths retained and I see no reason why this cannot be accommodated by a good quality new design. All the arguments that I have heard so far for its removal seem at the least spurious and at worst fig leaves to a bloody minded vandalism.

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nevermodern


Posts: 653
Joined: Feb 2007
Post: #19
05-03-2008 09:50 PM

Both retaining the original buildings or going for interesting new-build would both be good options in my opinion. I'm against retaining the original facade and building new behind because you end up with a bit of mish-mash that looks like, at best, some kind of post-modern 'joke' or at worse, like it's part of a film set! Frontages of old buildings can be retained successfully, but I think usually when the building is part of a terrace, where you don't see the new doings behind it.

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ht


Posts: 13
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #20
05-03-2008 09:56 PM

I personally would hope a new design might be able to incorporate aspects of the fa?ade and existing structure of the building ? mixing of the old and new is possible and can be very attractive, as demonstrated by the local examples already referenced. Hopefully an architectural competition for a new design, with input from FHS and Sydenham societies, and architects with expertise and experience in this field, will be a positive way forward. And whilst many will say I?m naive, I personally hope a compromise still may be possible, where we could have a great new pool for the community without losing a sense of our history.

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