Avanti Architects resumes work on Grade I-listed Lubetkin masterpiece
Berthold Lubetkin’s grade I-listed modernist masterpiece Finsbury Health Centre is set to undergo a £1.25m restoration led by Avanti Architects and supported by campaign group the Twentieth Century Society.
Designed by Lubetkin and the Tecton Group before the foundation of the National Health Service, the centre was the realisation of a radical humanitarian brief for a deprived central London community, delivered in a new building-type.
The C20 Society said the centre, completed in 1938, encapsulated all of modernism’s progressive ideals – social, technical, aesthetic – combined with a political and architectural conviction unequalled by any other work of its era. In the process the reinforced-concrete structure set a benchmark for the modernist design of many subsequent health centres and hospitals.
The building has suffered from water ingress and general deterioration in recent years and is on government heritage adviser Historic England’s at-risk register. NHS Property Services, which has owned the building since 2013, has been working with Avanti Architects and the C20 Society to develop a phased programme of works.
After essential maintenance to the building’s roof commenced last year the next phase of works will focus on façade repairs, including glazing, spandrel panels, glass blocks and tiles. The C20 Society said “painstaking work” had been required to source and match sustainable materials for the project, particularly the reinstatement of the original Thermolux glass.
Avanti first surveyed Finsbury Health Centre in 1988, ahead of initial repair and conservation works in 1994, with a replacement of roof coverings, specialist concrete repair, facsimile retiling and signage, and restoration of the distinctive curtain wall façade.
This latest phase of works closely follows the 1994 template and aims to complete a project first started some 25 years ago. The brief from NHSPS is to substantially improve the condition of the centre and carry out sensitive repairs to allow for the continued use of the building for healthcare provision, ensuring it can fully accommodate the healthcare needs of existing and future residents in the area.
C20 Society director Catherine Croft said Finsbury Health Centre was a “mini-masterpiece of modernism”, that is much smaller than it appears in photographs and wartime propaganda.
“It was Innovative with materials, designed to be flexible and highly serviced to deliver exemplary medical care in an accessible and comfortable environment,” she said. “This is still a place to make one proud of British architecture and of the NHS. It’s idealistic in all the best and most important ways.”
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Former Avanti director John Allan, who is a consultant on the current project, said it was “profoundly gratifying” to be able to resume work on the project and feed in the experience gained from the 1990s phase of work.
“After all the vicissitudes, this unique work of Lubetkin has endured over the years,” he said. “I hope that all people of good will should want to give the proposed project their wholehearted support.”
Avanti Architects director Fiona Lamb said the practice was “thrilled” to be resuming conservation work at the centre.
“The phased works follow the re-roofing project completed earlier this year by NHS Property Services, which together will help secure this deeply loved resource for its local community,” she said.