We have started painting works on a residential site in Redhill, Surrey that has been home to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) since the mid-80s. The project is a joint venture between our client Countryside Properties and Gardner Steward Architects, and once completed, will provide 102 contemporary homes for the blind, partially sighted and buyers on the open market.
While the site has housed different charitable services for over 200 years, many of the existing buildings were never fit for purpose, and much of the space was previously inaccessible. It has therefore been completely reimagined, and the only buildings kept in the masterplan were the Grade II-listed farmhouse Tudor House, and an outbuilding called the Garden Cottage.
The vision was to create a truly integrated community, with all residents living side by side. To help the RNIB residents live as independently as possible, they will be spread across the site based on their needs.
Our Painting Solutions division has begun the refurbishment of the two retained structures. Tudor House is now designated as a community hub to host the RNIB offices and a multi-purpose meeting space for functions and gatherings. A red-brick structure with pitched roofs, it gave cues from which the architects developed the material palette for the surrounding homes. The Garden Cottage, meanwhile, has been extended to one of the shared houses on the site.
One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of this project is the need to be sensitive to those who are partially sighted. Colour contrasts are employed throughout the site to assist in telling the difference between adjacent elements of a building; the interiors we are working on have to adhere to the carefully planned colour scheme. All stakeholders were also adamant the tones should have a degree of subtlety in order to not feel institutionalised, avoiding garish primary colours.
Adding a sense of place and character, the architects also devised a ‘sensory trail’ on the site. Essentially a pedestrian footpath running across the site, it guides residents and visitors through using sounds, smells and textures to aid navigation. This is a really visionary project to be involved in, and is already shaping up to be a desirable community for residents.