The thing about public architecture is not only that it is public but also that it is architecture. That is, as well as housing facilities that everyone can use, it arranges them in spaces and with materials that enhance and sustain these uses, and makes connections between the elements and their surroundings that enrich the social experience of being there, rather than simply arranging the functions in a series of task-fulfilling cells. In which it helps that the Green is not considered on its own, but as part of a wider plan that includes Nunhead Green (Pevsner: “a pathetic scrap of grass and asphalt”), an open space that has been renovated to the designs of AOC. The whole project is paid for by new houses for private sale, not yet built, designed by the same architects.
Externally, AOC saw their job as pulling together the multifarious surroundings: a Tudorbethan pub, terraced houses of Georgian proportions. There are the almshouses built in 1852 by the Metropolitan Beer and Wine Trade Society, whose “yellow-brick gothic front of some character” and “oddly angled chimneys” were for Pevsner Nunhead Green’s only redeeming feature. The new building – brick, gabled – has something in common with all of these. It is house-like, but also has a massy, slightly pugnacious quality that comes from making the mortar the same colour as the reddish brick (it makes the building seem hewn from one mass), and has a “lantern”, a projection at the peak of the gable containing high-level windows, that is intended to announce the presence of a public place. A pattern of herringbone bricks borrowed from the pub, but blown up in scale and realised in bas-relief, enliven one wall. The row of new houses alongside, banded and gabled and with a Dutch-Danish flavour, are designed to ease the transition in scale from four storeys on one side of the green to two on the other.
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The comments at the bottom contain a more critical view. Including:-
I've read a lot about this building and no one seems to have noticed or mentioned that the height of the building is excessive. Being on the west side of the green, 'The Green' blocks out the evening sun from the front seating area of the Nun's Head pub, which used to be absolutely lovely until 9pm.
Now you lose the direct sunlight and the warmth from about 7pm onwards. Clearly nobody involved in the design ever considered that, or they did but didn't care. It's a shame.