John Morden Centre Blackheath Building

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John Morden Centre Blackheath, Morden College London Property, Education Building Photos

John Morden Centre, Morden College, Blackheath, London

29 November 2021

Architect: Mae

Location: John Morden Centre, Morden College, 19 St Germans Place, Blackheath, south east London, England, UK

One of the 2021 Brick Award winners in the Refurbishment category

Bricks: Ibstock

John Morden Centre, Morden College, Blackheath, London
photos courtesy of Brick Awards / architects

John Morden Centre, south east London

Set in the south London grounds of the 17th century Sir Christopher Wren-designed Morden College almshouse, the 700sqm John Morden Centre balances its own presence with the need to blend in with the surrounding architecture. By using brick on the external elevations, Mae Architects have created a material and visual connection with the other buildings on the Morden College campus, while lending the new day care centre a robust and unique presence.

John Morden Centre, Morden College, Blackheath

Located on the southern edge of the site, the new elderly day care centre consolidates the college’s communal facilities, such as craft workshops, a communal dining room, treatment and counselling spaces and a reception and waiting room. The scheme is designed around a wide internal promenade, consists of different pavilions clustered adjoining this central spine, creating views through the building and opportunities for chance encounters between staff, elderly residents and visitors. Each of the pavilions is given its own silhouette with chimney-like elements, which continues the legacy of the robust yet elegant architecture of the original almshouse.

John Morden Centre by Mae Architects

The newly built-cluster of spaces also incorporates a large 1970s assembly hall, often used for theatrical performances by the residents, which is now located at the end of the promenade. A number of smaller lean-on structures adjacent to the hall were demolished to make way for the new building. 10,000 bricks from the demolition were salvaged and used to construct new retaining and garden walls on the site.

Although the building’s load-bearing structure comprises large scale Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) panels, the outer leaf is made using self-supporting masonry. This mirrors Wren’s original quadrangles, which despite being constructed using load-bearing brick walls, contains large amounts of structural timber elements, such as beams, inside.

We have chosen a more robust full brick wall base with half-stone brick leaf on top. We specified Ibstock Cumberland Blend 2629 bricks, as these are a good color match for the other red-brown brick buildings on the Morden College campus, and their slightly rough texture allows the building to appear timeless and in keeping with the complex’s patinated brick buildings.

John Morden Centre London by Mae Architects

The bricks are arranged in a Flemish Bond, reflecting the more traditional craftsmanship used by Wren at the Almshouse rather than the simple stretcher bond used on some of the buildings from the 1960s. Aware that most of the façade would be half-stone thick, we asked construction workers to saw bricks in two, enabling the construction of a conventionally thick outer leaf. In some places, we have designed areas of dogtooth or missing masonry to highlight and enliven the façade expression. We have decided to use lime mortar to bind the bricks together. Easier to work with and more resilient than cement mortar, it will also make reusing the bricks easier if necessary.

Combining the robustness and longevity of the brick exterior with the warmth and environmental credentials of CLT on the inside creates a timeless and fitting addition to the college and serving the elderly residents by combining the best of tradition with the latest material innovations.

John Morden Centre south east London brickwork

Judges’ Comments – Hilary

A very clever building structured around a linear route that uses brick to strong effect as a robust face both inside and outside. Really considers the needs of the specific older user group and designs well for them without being at all institutional.

Shame about the car park but that is part of the wider supported housing use

The building is very cleverly broken down into a series of linked elements and manages to feel very comfortable and domestic whilst serving the needs of a lot of residents

Strong use of brickwork and the integration of an existing building in a fairly seamless way

A really good brick example taking a strong lead from the nearby listed building. Suggest really a community use rather than refurbishment though so that category may be wrong.

Christopher Wren

John Morden Centre, Morden College, Blackheath images / information received from the Brick Awards

Address: 19 St Germans Place, London, SE3 0PW
Phone: +44 (0)20 8463 8330
E-mail: info(at)

Location: Blackheath, South London, England, UK

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