A multi-storey concrete carpark in the middle of Peckham is not the most expected location for (arguably) London’s most photographed stairs. But thanks to its recent colourful renovation, the building’s new life as creative art and events hub Peckham Levels has turned it into just that. The overall project proposed by Makeshift – the team behind Brixton’s shipping container restaurant hot spot Pop – and undertaken with Carl Turner Architects, includes artist workshops, restaurants, a kids play area and a music venue. The stairs however, fell under the banner of ‘Special Projects’ and thus had their own architects in James Webster and Richard Bridges from AO Architecture. Their brief, says Marketing Manager Keira Jolly from Peckham Levels, was about “assisting with the wayfinding and overall aesthetics of the building.” AO opted to put colour at the centre of their strategy and explain in their mission statement that, “the colours and graphics have been combined in an effort to help members and visitors navigate around this surprisingly simple, yet surprisingly disorientating building – there is a reason why people lose their cars in car parks!”
The building is made up of seven levels / split levels which are accessed by the stairs, lifts, and internal ramps. AO opted to use a colour coding strategy to mark out each level with a specific tone of colour – easily understood in the architects’ rendered image of the stairwell (above). Part of the idea was about representing the diverse community of members and businesses that have made Peckham Levels their home, and each colour choice slicing through the space is striking alone, but also in relation to the next one. Even the handrails change depending on which floor they are on – a steal-able decorating idea if ever there was one.
There’s been a lot of buzz about Peckham generally – thanks in part to nearby neighbour Copeland Estate and the Bussey Building, and the many creative things happening in the neighbourhood. The car park was already renowned for its summer rooftop hangout, Frank’s Campari Bar – accessible via its own distinctive all-pink stairs. But in the few months that Peckham Levels has been open, it’s already garnered a huge following as well as a veritable portfolio of stair selfies – both human and canine (dotted throughout the PL Instagram account). “We are really pleased with the way people have been engaging with the stairs and having fun with the colours and graphics,” AO’s James told us. “It’s been great to see all the creative ways people have been capturing the space on Instagram. We also have an office space in Peckham Levels so to be part of a project in general that will spread to the local community is very satisfying.”