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Filwood Cultural Commons

AOC Filwood Cultural Commons

Bristol City Council in partnership with Constellia and CIPKW have launched a competition for the renovation the Filwood Community Centre as part of a wider Levelling Up project to transform Filwood Broadway, the centre of the Knowle West area in Bristol. This is an opportunity to update a critical piece of social infrastructure to accommodate the richness and complexity of the area. Our Scheme, developed as part of a wider design team headed by AOC Architecture and including Landsmith Associates and Skelly and Couch, aims to give the community the visibility and means to express itself and contribute to the wider culture of the city.

AOC Filwood Community Centre


Knowle West has suffered from underinvestment and isolation and as the culture and fabric of the wider city rapidly evolve, there is a risk of this key Bristolian community losing relevance as a civic component. The project aims to address this by creating a cultural commons and growing connections with a wider network of social infrastructure.


The existing building was designed as a formal centrepiece for the community and as such enjoys many advantages. Notably its views and approach, a defensible margin, robust materiality and the generous proportions and access to daylight that are synonymous with the garden city principals of the wider area. It also has generational memory woven into its fabric and a very active programme. A tremendous asset that is central to the proposal in the preservation of key forms, fabrics and uses.

Filwood library notice board


The presentation of the building and its connection to the public realm is crucial to the success of community centre. It is currently cut off from the wider public realm on all four sides by roads and this isolation is compounded by the perimeter fence, window bars and obscured glazing. Being aware of and realistic about some of the challenges the area faces is important. But so is connecting to the new public realm proposals for the Broadway and ensuring the new facility is optimistic and welcoming as a warm hub for the whole community.


Inside the building we are proposing a new Cultural Commons for Knowle West and the wider area. This will be a warm roof in an age of fuel poverty. A new space to nurture, grow and reflect the diversity and creativity in the community.

AOC Filwood Cultural Commons


Bristol has a family of iconic public interiors, but all are in the city centre, our proposal fits a wider programme of de-centralising culture that is particularly relevant to Knowle West, where studies show a markedly low-frequency of visits by residents into the centre of town.


We propose putting a warm roof over the courtyard to create a grand civic interior. This diagram shows our proposal for scaled against the other examples.

A collection of Bristol civic interiors

Based on this it is beholden upon the project to deliver a Cultural Commons for the wider area that sits comfortably in terms of success and relevance in this family. In the 1960s a theatre producer and an architect proposed a fun palace, a laboratory of fun where you could choose what you want to do or watch someone else doing it. This idea has been explored from Sao Paolo 80s to Brent in the 00s and we propose bringing it to Filwood in the 2020s.


AOC Filwood Cultural Commons diagram

Our primary proposal is simple and justified. Currently the open courtyard is underused and results in extensive heat loss every time a door is opened. By adding a warm roof, we will create a cultural commons and a thermal buffer massively reducing running costs and ensuring long-term sustainability.

Our warm roof creates a grand civic interior that reflects, nurtures, and proliferates the endeavours of the Knowle West community and ensures these efforts continue to enrich Bristol for another generation.

Filwood Cultural Commons technical section



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