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Retrofit Meets: Creating Community Hubs

Wed 15 May 2024, 6-7.30pm

Retrofit Meets is an in person series of panel events bringing together experts in the built environment. These are held in the seminar suites of the Building Centre.

Organised thematically, panellists will discuss their latest research and completed or on going projects, some of which are displayed in the Retrofit 24 exhibition. These discussions will present the aims, challenges and outcomes of each project. The event format will also allow for dialogue between the panellists offering our attendees new insights into retrofit. We encourage audience participation during the Q&A portion of the evening and look forward to meeting you there.  

Chaired by Natalie Thomson of Buckley Gray Yeoman, this session brings together four architects who have all recently completed, or are currently working on a retrofit project with the aim of creating a community hub.

Natalie is joined by Sarah Robinson of The King’s Foundation who tasked Oxford Brookes University students with finding new uses for a disused hospital in Lancashire and Anthony Staples of RCKa, who is undertaking the retrofit of a youth centre in East London. Also joining the panel is Tara Gbolade of Gbolade Design Studio| Architects and John Puttick of John Puttick Associates. Tara is currently working on the redevelopment of The Dominoes Club in Brixton and The Music Box, a converted church, and John has recently turned a listed maltings into a centre for young people. In conjunction with the charity OnSide, he is delivering several youth centres across the UK.

The panellists’ work with charities, councils and universities is proof of their commitment to including the public in the built environment and ensuring that architecture serves the communities it is built for.


  • Natalie Thomson (Architect & Director of Strategy- Buckley Gray Yeoman)
  • Tara Gbolade (Co- Founding Director- Gbolade Design Studio| Architects)
  • John Puttick (Director- John Puttick Associates)
  • Sarah Robinson (Associate Director- The King's Foundation)
  • Anthony Staples (Associate- RCKa)

Natalie has breadth of experience with both refurbishment and new build projects across workplace, community, and housing sectors, predominantly in London’s conservation areas. A key project is the redevelopment of The Passage, the UK's largest homeless resource centre. Natalie is currently a member of NLA’s Expert Panel on Culture, and previously served on their Wellbeing panel. Outside work Natalie dedicates time to philanthropic endeavours, giving young people the best start in life.

Tara is a Mayor’s Design Advocate and co-director of the award-winning Gbolade Design Studio-and architecture practice, specialising in residential and mixed-use developments. She is a Trustee of the UK Green Building Council and sits on the Design Review Panels across London. With an expertise in sustainable design, Tara has led public-sector sustainability guidance setting the ambition and standards for Environmental & Socio-Economic sustainability. She is also a contributor to the industry-leading LETI Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide.

John is the founder of John Puttick Associates, an architectural studio creating places which are transformative to communities and our built heritage. The studio continues to specialise in the reimagining of existing buildings alongside new-build projects. Current work includes the retrofit of a Grade II Listed maltings in Grimsby into a centre for young people and the refurbishment of one of the UK’s earliest power stations in Blackburn as a creative industries hub.

Sarah studied at the University of Bath and Oxford Brookes University, qualifying as an Architect in 2009, she later joined The King's Foundation in 2018. At the Foundation, Sarah’s work includes the restoration of Braemar Castle along with a reimagining of its visitor experience; the repurposing of a large 20th century hospital building into a much needed community facility in Fleetwood, Lancashire. She also teaches and works alongside the Education team and building craft students on several of their live build projects.

Anthony is an architect and associate at RCKa with experience working across the public and private sectors but he has particular expertise in community engagement and participatory design. Anthony’s work has twice helped RCKa to win the prestigious Architect of the Year Social Value Award; while his Nourish Hub community kitchen was recipient of the RIBA Journal’s MacEwen Award, the Mayor of London’s Prize and the New London Architecture Community Award in recognition of the profound impact the project has had on local people.


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