Twenty-year masterplan for Children’s Charity, Bloomsbury, London
Captain Thomas Coram “whose name will never want a monument so long as this hospital shall subsist”.
The Foundling Hospital was brought into being in 1739, the building itself started in 1742 (3 years), finished in 1747 (5 years) and stood on the site until it was demolished in 1934 (187 years).
Thomas Coram built the Hospital ‘for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children’ in 57 acres of fields between Guildford Street and the St George’s burial grounds at what was then an edge of London.
Bloomsbury grew up around the Foundling Hospital with subsequent development extending from the initial form created by the hospital buildings and the graveyard.
The Foundling Estate was built to the east (now Mecklenburgh Square) and so the surrounding residential streets shared their patronage, their name and their disposition with the hospital.
The founding ethos of the hospital is now bequeathed to this part of London, which has become the home to many organisations devoted to the care of children and their families.
Coram has shaped London, his resilience ingrained in its fabric.
What if this layer of mutual influence between the inner city and the Coram Family were reworked to secure both futures?
This masterplan initiates the framework of a design approach towards new development. It proposes the staged investment of defined visions overlaid on the given situation of need and fabric.
This is shown through several illustrated and complete moments in the proposed transformation of the site. These promote the overriding ethos of the Coram Family by accommodating the many inputs of a complex organisation and providing for new partnerships both in the existing fabric and in entirely new buildings.
Without demolition to the existing buildings envisaged for the first ten years it seeks to minimise disruption to the various organisations currently on site.
But slowly it purposefully and indelibly alters the aspect of the site.
It proposes an overlay of discrete projects, each with their own programme, which can develop independently but harmoniously over time describing a future that can be sub-divided into a number of stages (17) and that can evolve over a choice of timescales. What will be required, how it is named, distributed and arranged in future and existing buildings is set out in a fixed format to be phased over seventeen distinct stages, which can be seventeen years or seventeen phases.
This allows for the masterplan’s variable evolution throughout a long-form briefing, masterplanning and detailed design process but within a highly deterministic urban arrangement that seeks to maintain Coram’s neighbourhood legacy by building a new Georgian Square, devoted to the wellbeing of children.
Location: Bloomsbury, London
Client: Coram Foundation