BRIX & MORTAR: Brixton Rec

Written by Barney Evison, arts co-editor, as part of Brix & Mortar: a celebration of Brixton’s unique landmarks

Brixton Rec interior - photo by Simon Kennedy
Brixton Rec interior – photo by Simon Kennedy

The Brixton Rec plays a hugely important role in Brixton’s civic life, providing access to a large range of sporting facilities to the local community. Although the plans for the Centre were unveiled in 1973, it wasn’t until 1985 that it was finally opened following a period of development beset with delays and structural challenges.

Despite its uncompromising brutalist façade, the Rec is a much-used and much-loved local resource, and was used by three quarters of a million people last year. In October last year, Lambeth council planners published a draft planning document which suggested the Rec be sold and potentially demolished. This was met with fierce opposition from local users, and the plans were scrapped following a confrontational council meeting last December.

The architect, George Finch, passed away in February after a long career working for the London County Council and Lambeth Council and was well-known for his utopian vision of creating functional buildings for ordinary people. Originally a housing architect, Finch also designed Lambeth Towers on Kennington Road.

Jeremy Lake, the centre’s General Manager, sees the Rec as central to Brixton’s community and is enthusiastic about its future: “The Brixton Recreation Centre is one of the most diverse and comprehensive leisure centres I have worked in. In terms of variety of facilities and activities it is almost unrivalled, and that’s what really makes it the community hub that it is today. While the building is a unique design, it works well and we will continue to develop areas to improve it further.”