The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian church and charity which offers practical help to communities without discrimination. Sitting adjacent to their Giles Gilbert Scott-designed training college in south east London’s Denmark Hill area, this new territorial headquarters is an elegant, sustainable new home for the organisation.

Model showing unlisted buildings to the right of William Booth College, which have been demolished to allow the development of the new building

For their new territorial headquarters the Salvation Army opted to use a site already in their ownership next to the Grade II-listed William Booth College at Denmark Hill, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1929. Our challenge was to respond appropriately to this impressive and distinctive neighbour, without delivering unnecessary opulence or pastiche. As a Christian organisation, the Salvation Army wanted a high-quality, long-lasting building that was fitting to their practical values of ‘soup, soap and salvation’.

Layout development
Main moves

We started by massing the building to respond to the missing symmetry of the site, mirroring the volume of the blocks east of the main college building. It has a similar language and scale to the Gilbert Scott original, adapted to be unmistakeably contemporary. Instead of a quadrangle-like courtyard, it has a large internal atrium to connect its users, aligned – through a glazed opening at one end – with the tower of the college, and with a connective stair running up its full height. We placed open plan office space close to windows, breakout space around the edge of the atrium, and planned the ground floor so that the café and multi-function spaces can be zoned off for public access.

Concept sketches showing cruciform layout and elevation development, inspired by the existing masterplan
Internal atrium with views to Gilbert Scott Tower

The outside of the building is clad in brick, in a lighter tone than the Giles Gilbert Scott buildings but with darker flecks echoing its neighbour. The vertical brick piers – which follow the principles and proportions of the college – alternate with large areas of glazing, giving the headquarters transparency and light but an equal sense of solidity when viewed from an oblique angle. We varied the order and language on the north-western corner, insetting a cross into the brickwork, conscious that our building will act as both a marker and foreground to the college when approached from Denmark Hill.

Front elevation facing Champion Park
Rear garden amenity
Model showing the block massing of the new building

We kept to a simple set of carefully-chosen materials throughout, to minimise the building’s embodied carbon and performance in use, and also to reflect the values and identity of our client. The structural concrete slab is made from 50% GGBS – a by-product from the steel industry which reduces the amount of cement needed in the mix – and is ribbed to further reduce the amount of material required. This in turn brings down the weight of the building and the size of foundations needed. Inside, the concrete is exposed to maximise its thermal properties, softened with an oak lining. The building is targeted to achieve BREEAM Excellent.

Over 60 people attended the public consultation in July 2018
Reception leading into central atrium