[from Bridget’s blog]
The Centre for Lifelong Learning is itself a good example of this. The original building was Finsbury Park School, one of those familar redbrick London schools. Similar ones, Ambler School and Gillespie School, still flourish nearby. Finsbury Park merged with Ambler and the site closed as a school in 1964. It later became part of Islington sixth form college. In 1993 it merged into City and Islington College (candi). Then around 2001, the college chose the site for the lifelong learning centre. They could have demolished the old building and started again. Instead they took the front off, extended it with a very good modern frontage – which makes it part of Blackstock Road rather than set back – and retained the brick arches and high ceilings of the old school as the framework of the building. It looks spectacular inside and works really well.
It’s a sustainable building too in that it includes shared use. As well as the college, the site includes Islington’s new N4 public library. Roll back to 1988, I was at library school further along Blackstock Road at Highbury Grove, in what was then North London Poly. Nearby was Islington Central Library on Holloway Road, well placed to serve the residents of Highbury. But no library at all for people down the hill in Finsbury Park – and this in a small borough which has ten libraries compared to just six in the whole of Kensington & Chelsea. It’s wonderful to see this bright and well-used library in what was a really neglected area. Fantastic though it is, the library had a controversial start; it replaced the small but well-loved Arthur Simpson library on Hanley Road, further along Stroud Green Road, much to the anger of its loyal users. The fact that the old library did not comply with disability access, and that its relocation enabled the fantastic new facility in one of Islington’s most neglected centres, was no comfort. Going for the N4 library was the right decision; but I do understand those who would have liked both.