Black History Month: Black Cultural Archives


11 October 2018

The month of October marks Black History Month, a time to remember the contributions and achievements of black people nationally and worldwide.

To raise awareness and highlight the cultural significance and relevance of the building, we have written a piece dedicated to one of our projects, Black Cultural Archives.


Black Cultural Archives was founded in Brixton in 1981 by Lee Garrison and other members of the black community in Britain with the aim of bringing peace to communities. It was a backlash against the negative stereotypes fuelled by the media and national institutions, and aimed at educating the public on the forgotten history of black people in Britain.

The Centre enables the public to learn and connect with black history and heritage, by creating a platform that educates and inspires individuals and communities through archives, exhibitions, public programmes and events that promote diversity. The Archive has hosted a number of exhibitions including ‘Black in the Day at BCA’, ‘Black Sound’ and ‘Rastafari in Motion’.

In 2014, following a refurbishment that Max Fordham worked on, the Centre re-opened in Brixton and it remains the only national centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain, which is essential for social progression of the black community.

(c) Edmund Sumner & Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects



Max Fordham provided Mechanical & Electrical design services as well as Architectural Lighting for the refurbishment and extension to the building. Our strategy involved providing natural ventilation to as much of the building as possible and creating a climate controlled environment only in the archives and exhibition spaces.

A glazed connection between the listed building and the new wing allowed the two forms to be clearly expressed, with the new wing offering a frame for the restored facades. A new courtyard was created in front of the central six bays, with the glazed heritage doors of the cafe opening directly onto it. This created an external event area and a focal point for Black Cultural Archives' activities.

This connection is echoed in further design elements such as the shop front windows, which deliberately draw attention to the building. It moves the squares' centre of gravity towards Black Cultural Archives and attracts interest from the well-used west-facing boulevard with the popular Ritzy Cinema and Brixton Tate Library. The building completes Windrush Square and provides solidity and permanence to its south end. The square has become a significant piece of public realm within the community and was the flagship project of the mayor of London’s Great Outdoor Programme.


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