Benjamin Marks named as first winner of the RIBA Journal’s MacEwen Award

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Benjamin Marks, has added to his growing collection of awards after being announced as the first winner of the MacEwen Award on 2 February 2016.

The bolt-together Walter Segal building, constructed in 1988, was CSCB’s former offices. The building became redundant when CSCB moved into its new offices at the neighbourhood centre in 2011 to free up the site for construction of the new Rambert headquarters. With fellow Cambridge architecture graduate Mat Atkins, Ben re-designed the building giving it a new lease of life as a play space, office, kitchen and veranda for Oasis Children’s Venture in Stockwell.

Growing need for youth provision

Oasis Children’s Venture has provided inclusive play facilities and education opportunities for young people since 1973. Throughout this time, the children and young people in the local area have become increasingly vulnerable to the threat of growing knife, gun and gang culture.

By offering diverse play projects to children from the age of 5 to 19, Oasis establishes long-term connections with young people, and can have a powerful positive impact on their later lives. However, a lack of space, and declining standards meant the play and learning opportunities were lacking, it was increasingly difficult to accommodate the growing staff team and the children were suffering as a result. Despite the clear need for a new building, the charity was unable procure the essential funds for a new development.

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Local community lend a helping hand

Iain Tuckett, CSCB’s Group Director, suggested the old office building which could be available for free, if the charity could arrange to dismantle it and take it away. At that point Ben Marks and Mat Atkins, who were students at the time, stepped in to offer their expertise.

With a large building needing to be taken apart and reassembled, it wasn’t just architectural knowledge that was of great need. With the help of more than 50 local volunteers, each fixture, fitting, timber joist and window was carefully marked, removed and transported to its new home in Stockwell.

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Bright future for Oasis Children’s Venture

As a result of the new building, Oasis have been able to house more staff, increase their opening hours, and with the improved indoor facilities, they can maintain their youth sessions throughout the year.

On the panel of judges for the MacEwen award was Matthew Taylor who said, ‘It’s a great re-use, and a continuation of a really nice story that started in the 1960s.”

Since completing the Oasis building, Benjamin received the top award in The Temporary category at New London Architecture Awards for The Green Room, the neighbourhood restaurant, bar and garden, on Upper Ground, a collaboration between Coin Street and the National Theatre.