Hawkhead Centre, Scottish War Blinded
Scottish War Blinded
198 Hawkhead Rd, Paisley, PA2 7BS
Internal Floor Area
A building where every room is connected with one another and to the landscape outside.
The Hawkhead Centre is a new activity and support centre for the charity Scottish War Blinded, who provide free support to ex-service men and women who have lost their sight during or after military service. The Hawkhead Centre is Scottish War Blinded’s flagship facility on the west side of Scotland, building upon the success of their existing facility, the Linburn Centre, in the east.
The centre provides a wide range of facilities to aid the charity in their work, including a sports hall, gymnasium, art room, wood workshop and a large dining area which forms the social hub and heart of the building. A significant part of the centre is the connection between the inside of the building and the new sensory garden to which it opens out, complete with planting areas, pergola, potting shed and greenhouse, encircled by existing mature oak, larch, pine and maple trees.
The design of the centre is inspired by the placename ‘Hawkhead’, the area of Paisley in which it is situated. This led to the key design move of envisaging the roof of the centre like a sweeping wing which shelters all of the activity below. This roof, which is lined in timber, has five large triangular rooflights set within it which provide light and interest to the central dining and gathering area. Every key room in the building has a visual connection to this sweeping roof and to the central gathering area, engendering a feeling of community and connection to a wider whole.
Buildings such as the Hawkhead Centre are increasingly important within our society, today and moving into the future. With an aging population and a contracting provision of public facilities and services, the third sector are increasingly being asked to bridge the gap and provide the ‘glue’ that bring and hold us together through their own services and facilities.
The charity Scottish War Blinded, through buildings such as the Hawkhead Centre, provide indispensable social opportunities for a predominantly retired generation of veterans and former servicemen and women. Social isolation and loneliness for retired people, particular those with impairments, is something that as a society we must face head-on moving in to the future, and buildings such as the Hawkhead Centre are crucially important to this.
The creation of a homely, non-institutional interior was key. Married to this ambition was the practical need for materials and surfaces to have high levels of visual contrast between one another to give the visually impaired buildings users the greatest independence. To ensure the domestic, inviting interior of the centre, tactile materials such as hardwood timbers were preferred instead of plastic materials, and visual contrast was provided by the careful choice of natural materials.
For example, each of the doors in the ground floor of the building are framed in dark walnut timbers, with a dark cork flooring at the base to form a clear ‘portal’ around the door opening. Within these darker door openings, light maple veneered timber doors were chosen along with black enamelled ironmongery, so at every stage there is visual contrast, achieved through the use of natural materials.