Culture Palace

Culture Palace was a 300sqm temporary creative hub housing a performance space, satellite museum, bookshop, café and screening room at the heart of Enfield Palace Gardens shopping centre. Its success was the result of bringing the community together and demonstrating the role culture and the arts could play in the recovery and reinvention of the town centre.

The exterior of Culture Palace is designed to be welcoming and engaging
The space is designed to be welcoming to visitors so that they can explore the cultural offer at their own pace
For evening events the performance space can expand by reconfiguring the furniture units
The screening room is a simple retrofit that incorporates acoustic curtains and simple furniture
Culture Palace’s open plan layout allows visitors to informally use the different spaces during the day
Existing museum display cases were reused and brought to life with bespoke graphics

We were commissioned by DWS in 2020 to develop a cultural strategy for a mixed-used scheme at Palace Gardens. When the pandemic struck and development plans postponed, our remit shifted to develop meanwhile uses for the shopping centre. We identified benefits for both the local authority, who needed a temporary home for their arts centre and museum (requisitioned as a Covid-19 vaccination centre) and the landlord, who was suffering empty shop units and hesitancy from shoppers to return to the high street.

Ten months on, the transformation of a large vacant retail space resulted in a warm and vibrant creative space that welcomed all members of the community and pilotted an innovative approach to diversifying, away from a purely retail offer.

Isometric concept drawing

Our role spanned from the genesis of the idea to the delivery of the scheme. We instigated the project, developed the proposals, built partnership between landlord and developer, identified tenants and brokered peppercorn leases, project-managed the strip-out and designed the interior fit-out with a playful family of affordable and adaptable furniture.

Furniture has been designed to be engaging to all ages
Furniture has been designed to be engaging to all ages
The CNC-cut furniture efficiently uses plywood sheets so that there was minimal waste generated

“With Culture Palace we had enormous opportunity but limited resources. With D-P-Q we’ve been able to create an accessible, inviting, joyful space that pulls people in from across the busy shopping centre to discover all sorts of creative opportunity, from children’s theatre to “Bach and beer” concerts. The design is absolutely key to this, inviting people over the threshold and giving us incredible flexibility to switch between a children’s bookshop by day and cabaret venue by night, with knitting groups, storytime and art workshops in between. Only problem is this is a meanwhile space – we want it to last forever!”

Rebekah Polding
Head of Cultural Development, Enfield Council

Responding to Enfield Council’s strategic focus on how ‘Culture Connects’, the space housed local creative enterprises, built local capacity and offered a platform for local talent. We developed the bespoke flexible design in collaboration with local sustainable café, EN-Food and independent children’s bookseller, Pickled Pepper. This cohesive flexible design approach cemented the appeal and usability of the space, allowing cross-programming between the different partners to create a unique place-based cultural programme.

Culture Palace delivers on our Cultural Strategy for Enfield Council produced in 2020

During the first month, over 7000 people visited, ranging from curious passers-by, café visitors and book shoppers to those seeking arts activities. Over 2500 people attended ticketed events from film screenings and dance shows to mindful arts classes, cabaret and theatre. Local response was overwhelmingly positive: “This is great!”, “we’ve never had anything like this in Enfield” and “I can’t believe we’ve got this on our doorstep”. As hoped, the audience was diverse and ranged across all ages, helping the local community to reconnect in an uplifting environment after months of not being able to do so.

New London Awards 2022 – Meanwhile Winner

Civic Trust Awards 2023 – Highly Commended

Enfield, London

Client: DWS & Enfield Council
Collaborators: Stephen Barrett Studio
Photography: Luke Hayes

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