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Peckham Palms

A new Afrocentric space in the heart of Peckham, to support and grow London’s Afro hair and beauty industry and to put the power back into the hands of the communities it supports. 

Over the last 3 years Something & Son have been engaged in a project in Peckham, South London for the London Borough of Southwark focused on the rich afro-hair and beauty industry in the area. Entitled Peckham Palms, the project arose from a need to facilitate the transition of local businesses in the afro-hair care and beauty industry from their current home at Blenheim Grove to a new building, brought about by the redevelopment of Blenheim Grove, and it’s transformation to new public square. The resulting project takes the form of a new purpose built venue to house the moved businesses.

In developing the project, Something & Son worked closely with local women in the hair and beauty industry, and the wider community, basing themselves out of a shop in the locality as part of an extended process of engagement and fact-finding. This allowed us to develop a visual analogy for the new building, informed by strategies for rethinking, redefining and re-entering public space as a collective act, yet focused on the practical needs of the business owners.

Peckham Palms, or “The Palms” as it is known locally, provides professional, light units for hair and beauty stylists through a fair rent scheme, with flexible opening hours, and on site café & bar and a community centre. Something & Son – who are also the venue operators – have signed a 20-year lease to ensure the long term support of the business in their care, which is bolstered by skills development, business advice, and access to affordable childcare. Eventually the building will be transitioned to community ownership through a share scheme to further support the fragile hair and beauty ecosystem in the area.

In developing the project Something & Son worked in collaboration with London based architects Landolt + Brown who designed the building exterior. The interior is home to a series of integrated artworks developed with the building users and the local community. Each shop is unique, named after a powerful female figure from African history including Asantewaa (Ayama of Ghana), Taytu (empress of Ethiopia and founder of Addis Ababa), and Mae Jemison, (the first black American woman to travel into space).

Local textile designers were recruited to decorate the interior, using a printing technique for textiles that has been re-appropriated for an architectural setting. The design which is applied to the shop fronts is based on a faux stone finish employed in Georgian and Victorian architecture, which has been injected with a contemporary colour scheme to reflect Peckham’s diverse communities.

The shop fronts are finished by a series of unique portraits drawn from members of the local community and Peckham Palm’s residents. Made using 3D scanning technology the bust reliefs sit aloft a series of unique pilasters, developed with hairdressers from Blenheim Grove using rope as a base material, which was then used to create different platting techniques, engraining their skills and personality in the buildings architecture.

From the start, the driving ethos at the core of the project has been to put the afro hair and beauty salons, and the women who run and work in them, at the heart of decisions made about the development and operation of The Palms.