The Poppy Plant / Henley Halebrown
The Poppy Plant / Henley Halebrown
Text description provided by the architects. The Poppy Factory is located in Richmond, along the River Thames in South West London. This is a charity founded between the World Wars that focuses on identifying jobs for veterans and raising funds for war-affected families. Its premises in Richmond have evolved over the years and occupy a cluster of buildings including a 3-story 1930s Art Deco factory where poppies are still made as a symbol of Flanders Fields to mark the end of hostilities in the First World War Remembrance Day.
Henley Halebrown’s adaptive reuse project focused on expanding and reconfiguring existing facilities for visitors and improving access as well as the overall working environment for employees, many of whom are Veterans. Henley Halebrown’s conceptual approach is inspired by a poem by Robert Graves, “Recalling War”: … “The blind man sees with his ears and hands, As often or more than once with his two eyes “…These words from the poem celebrate a known phenomenon: the loss of one meaning leads to the acuteness of another. Henley Halebrown is interested in how this phenomenon can be explored in their design of the Poppy Factory through the visceral possibilities of sensation, be it sight, sound, smell or touch. For example, inside the project, materials were selected to absorb glare and be pleasant to the touch, and planting outside was carefully chosen to encourage birdsong and create a fragrant garden.
The website. An important element of the new Poppy Factory scheme is to bring together existing buildings on the site, creating a campus and a stronger sense of community. The self-contained grounds include The Poppy Factory and a small 1930s housing estate built for factory workers with lovely enclosed leafy gardens. The estate continues to be inhabited by staff. The Poppy Factory itself is made up of three buildings: its three-story 1930s Art Deco factory; a single-storey warehouse; and a two-story 1970s Brutalist brick block. These buildings house offices dedicated to the professional integration of veterans and the poppy workshop with its adjoining warehouse. The upper floors of the premises were left as rented offices to provide funds for the charity.
Overall, the project is a great example of adaptive reuse benefiting from working with the embodied energy of existing buildings. And it fits with Henley Halebrown’s continued interest as a practice of working with existing buildings. Design without assistance. Henley Halebrown’s design linked these three buildings together and in doing so deliberately united office and factory. This has been achieved through a combination of new ramped routes as well as a lift creating level access where floor heights currently vary up to 2.5m. The ramps have been designed in such a way that no grab bars are required, thus opting for a design that is universally accessible, intuitive to use and clutter-free, giving everyone a better building experience.
Desks. Poppy Factory’s offices are now located in the old warehouse. Its refurbished interiors introduce new naturally ventilated, daylight-lit office space into the existing 7m high warehouse volume. The space is further transformed by the introduction of new skylights, and by opening up a facade to the prospect of the association’s charming 1930s housing estate to the south. The exceptionally high ceiling height of the offices as well as its subtle overhead lighting make it a monumental and generous space that will not require mechanical cooling. Its raw, semi-industrial look is retained, and with the introduction of plenty of natural light, the former warehouse feels like an outdoor space, much like an atrium. This is further enhanced by the architects interior planting scheme which is an integral part of the design and adds to the sensory pleasures that define the project as a whole.
Workshop. The association’s workshop remains in the original 1930s building with its benches specially designed for staff with reduced mobility. Adjacent to it, part of the warehouse will be reserved for the storage of poppies. Public face. The brutalist block at the front of the site continues to be used as the main entrance to The Poppy Factory. The offices it housed have been replaced with new facilities for visitors. These renovated public spaces are essential to the project as the charity runs daily tours for schoolchildren and members of the public. The revamped block thus becomes the public face of the organization, housing a new foyer, exhibition space, auditorium and cafe (also used by staff). Background. Inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Colonel John McCrae, the poppy became an icon of remembrance in the aftermath of the First World War. The first Poppy Appeal was held in 1921. Organized by the Royal British Legion, it raised £106,000 through the sale of silk poppies made by war widows in France. The following year, Major George Howson MC founded The Disabled Society in London.
Within 10 years, it employed 350 poppy-making veterans to raise money for the charity, which changed its name to The Poppy Factory with the opening of new premises in Richmond in 1925. In 2010, The Poppy Factory expanded his expertise in the employment of former military personnel. helping veterans find meaningful and sustainable work in other fields across the country. The Poppy Factory continues to produce millions of handmade paper poppies each year, as well as poppy wreaths and symbols of remembrance.