Fore Street Living Room Library

An inventive and flexible retro-fit is opening up new possibilities for a much-loved library to support local culture and community events.

Major developments down the road in Tottenham and Meridian Water, as well as regeneration of the surrounding Joyce and Snell’s Estate, will bring new opportunities to Fore Street. For now, residents currently experience incomes among the lowest 10% in England, exacerbated by a poor living environment and high barriers to education, training and employment.

JKA worked with Enfield Council through conversation with local residents, businesses and artists to identify and address these urgent challenges in the immediate term, while building resilience for the long term. Our shared vision helped Enfield Council secure £2 million from the Mayor’s Good Growth fund to:

  • Retro-fit the existing Library which enhances its ability to support educational, cultural and community functions
  • Convert defunct garages just behind the high street into affordable workspace for young enterprises
  • Create a new school street to improve air quality, encourage imaginative play and engagement with nature at the local primary school
  • Install public artworks to reinforce physical and cultural connections between the high street and the communities it serves (with local architects Fisher Cheng).

Fore Street Library was already well-used during its limited opening hours. However, residents reported a distinct lack of community space, opportunities to develop skills and engage with culture, as well as a town centre which feels unsafe at night. Stripping back the tired, cluttered elements of the aging interior allows for a light, airy and flexible internal fitout which continues to support core library functions. At the same time, the ability to open the layout to host larger events brings visible cultural animation onto the high street in the evenings.

The first year of the Living Room Library has been brought to life by community group Fore Street For All with a wide-ranging calendar of events. An open shop window space in the front of the Library hosts talks, workshops and advice surgeries. Beyond the reception area, a series of pivoting bookshelves and mobile workstations allow the entire space to be opened out to host lectures, readings, performances and training sessions. Collaborative working with local fabricators BLOQS helped to achieve simple, robust mechanisms for the CNC machined shelving.

During core library hours, the shelves shelter a series of intimate spaces, which can be further enclosed with a heavy curtain to create quiet private moments for smaller groups. In the rear, a new children’s section with elevated reading nooks brings to life the magic of reading, while a tiered platform sets the stage for performances. A simple material palette of warm plywood, coloured stains and deep red curtains create a backdrop for local people and community organisations to make the space their own.

For more information about events visit the Fore Street for All website.

Project Type Date