Chris Dyson Architects complete new café in Crystal Palace Park

Chris Dyson Architects has completed a new café in south London’s Grade I-listed Crystal Palace Park. The distinctive two-storey building comprises a café and terrace at ground level, and a community space at first floor level. Wrapped in half-round cedar shingles, the design references the scaled skin of the Grade I-listed dinosaur sculptures at the opposite end of the lake.

Funded by the Mayor of London, the café forms part of a package of improvement and conservation works proposed for the wider park. Income generated by the new café will be used to fund improvements throughout the park, including the ongoing conservation of the iconic dinosaur sculptures and geological illustrations within the park.

The new building’s orientation is perpendicular to the park’s central axis, located at a key point that allows, for the first time, an accessible-for-all connection between the central axis and the lakeside path. Additional pathways and planting help frame the building and terrace in the surrounding landscape, with deciduous trees chosen to invoke a strong autumnal colour and provide a visual connection to the existing trees of the park.

The café has four active façades, with large amounts of glazing providing light and airy interior spaces as well as expansive, panoramic views of the dinosaur models and wider park. The first-floor terrace is connected via a footbridge to the lakeside path, improving the building’s connectivity, while a chimney stack in black brick acts as a wayfinding landmark within the park.

The café was officially opened by Deputy Mayor, Jules Pipe CBE, and Councillor Peter Morgan, Executive Member for Renewal, Recreation and Housing. Morgan comments:

“I am sure that local residents and visitors to the park alike will enjoy the exceptional new park café.”

There was extensive public consultation on the regeneration of the park, which led to the development of the 2007 masterplan, and the set up of a new management structure which includes a Community Stakeholder Group.

In the summer of 2014 a decision was taken to proceed with park improvements with £2.4m of funding available from the Mayor of London and Bromley Council. A long list of improvement projects was presented to park users who voted on which improvements they would like to take forward. One of the most popular changes was the development of a new café. Park users’ feedback was that the existing café did not meet their needs or aspirations, and that a revised catering offer and new space was wanted which would benefit the community, and raise the standard of design in the park.

Political Support
The improvement scheme, and the development of a new café, is supported and approved by the Crystal Palace Park Executive Project Board which is chaired by the Leader of Bromley Council and attended by ward councillors.

Business Planning
A business plan for the café was produced by Counterculture LLP. An assessment was done of the existing café provision within the park and the needs of the surrounding area. This work identified the local need for both an improved café and events space. It also identified parameters for the design to inform the café design so that the building performed well operationally.

The ground floor of the café provides 60 covers internally, public W.C.s and an external service kiosk. The new ground floor terrace provides approximately 50 external covers.

The first floor of the café provides a multi-purpose community space that can seat 60 with an external covered terrace. The space will be available for use by local community groups and for hire as a venue. The first floor can also be used by the café during day-to-day operation to provide a second service point at lakeside path level during busy periods.