A vibrant mixed use, sustainable and intergenerational community hub.

The Vassall Centre

Location Fishponds, Bristol
Client Bristol Charities

A brief history

The Vassall Centre currently provides barrier free work and service provision space for 3rd sector organisations. However, built in 1945 as military accommodation, and located on a 1.23 Ha site in Fishponds, the existing buildings are at the end of their practical life with poor environmental performance. The aim is to redevelop the site to become a vibrant, sustainable community hub.

Planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the Centre, with the committee unanimous in their support in May 2023.


Our aspiration is to commemorate and celebrate the Centre’s foundations. To build upon the Centre’s current ethos of accessibility and inclusion and evolve the site to create a dynamic new neighbourhood centre for multigenerational living and working that encourages collaboration and an integrated, healthy, socially sustainable community.

The redevelopment will provide housing for older people, specialist supported housing for adults with learning difficulties, workspace for a range of charities and third sector organisations and community spaces including a café, education facility, and meeting / activity rooms.

This mixed-use provision will enable young, old, able bodied and those living with a disability to co-exist in close proximity. The design purposefully facilitates incidental meetings, encouraging stakeholders to learn from, and collaborate with one another.

Design Intent

Research has shown that different generations can mutually benefit from increased interaction with those outside their own age groups. This methodology has been pivotal to our design development.

Furthermore, the aim is that there will be an increased understanding and support towards people living with a disability as well as enabling disabled people to engage with the community.

The design aims to create an environment that encourages collaboration and supports an inclusive, socially sustainable community, whilst re-providing new, better-quality employment space.

Design Delivery

Key to the design development is the need to deliver the project in two phases so that existing Vassall Centre tenants are not displaced during construction.

Phase I, which accommodates the specialist housing and amenity spaces, is anticipated to complete in 2025. On completion phase II will then commence and deliver a range of 100% affordable housing including 2 and 3 bed houses and 1 and 2 bed apartments.


Working actively with Bristol Charities and other stakeholders, we have developed an environmentally responsible, energy efficient design approach aiming for Passivhaus accreditation and a Net Zero Carbon operational target.

The redevelopment proposals also include several measures that will make a positive contribution to the biodiversity value of the local area, including; the creation of species-rich grassland for birds, insects and other wildlife, habitats of value for invertebrates on green and brown roofs, native hedge planting on the boundaries of the site, species of value for insects in ornamental planting schemes, built-in swift and bat boxes and insect hotels.

User Experience

We consulted with over 200 people in the development of our proposal, respectful that this project is intended to create and serve a community.

Occupants should encounter an environment that encourages positive social interaction between a range of demographics, to learn from, support and collaborate with one another. Our design supports a greater sense of wellbeing through engagement with the outdoors, in a barrier free, inclusive environment, that combats loneliness and delivers high quality internal environments.

It is intrinsic to the overall success of delivering this community that the site is accessible and therefore we must answer the occupants requirements for an improved sense of arrival and wayfinding, improved legibility and promote collaboration, reduce travel distances and improve the breakout facilities.


The HAPPI 3 report, provides guidance for designing for an ageing population and is a key influence in our design approach to developing housing for older people. The mixed use approach to the development of the Vassall Centre whose facilities are set around a landscaped heart, promoting interaction and collaboration provide a unique opportunity to bring together a variety of stakeholders. This encourages community and that has the potential to reduce the risk of isolation and disconnect to the outside world.


The site currently has a poor relationship to the street. The buildings are set back from the road and lack street presence. This makes it difficult for people who are unfamiliar with the site to know what facilities and services are available. There is an opportunity for the new development to better connect with its surroundings to create an attractive, legible and welcoming community centre, whilst balancing security and safeguarding needs.

The proposed design combines the opportunities and constraints identified in the site analysis, the principles for designing for an ageing population and accessible building considerations ultimately delivering high quality homes, and work and community space that meets a wide range of needs whilst responding appropriately to the site and context.

An integrated community

The buildings layout enables and encourages the mixing and collaboration of a wide variety of stakeholders. It is important that they are intrinsically accessible, rather than create barriers that need to be overcome.

Design Drivers

In order to achieve the development aims and objectives, a set of key design drivers for the development are set out below and are intrinsic to the design response.

Layout Principles

The building is organised around a landscaped courtyard, this helps to create a sense of community and aids wayfinding around a central focus. The provision of high-quality communal space assists residents in meeting new friends and helps to tackle loneliness. Open gallery circulation enables views into the communal space from all levels. The adjacent section highlights where the HAPPI principles have been considered in the layout and form.

It is our responsibility to ensure our designs respond to the complex environmental and social challenges we now face whilst creating innovative and attractive spaces for residents, tenants and visitors to enjoy. For the Vassall Centre, this means the delivery of a vibrant community hub as a new home for charities and social enterprises alike."

David Perkin, Project Director

Community Hub

The mixed use approach to development of the Vassall centre site provides a unique opportunity to bring together a variety of stakeholders. This encourages an integrated and supportive community that has the potential to reduce the risk of isolation and disconnect to the outside world for the residents.