With notes of art deco and Arts and Crafts, Sidcup’s vibrant new library and cinema, designed by classy minimalists DRDH, brings new energy to a suburban high street against considerable odds
Sidcup is an outer London suburb of the kind that grew up between the two world wars, as part of a rapid expansion of the capital that saw it double in area. Its buildings had a bit of front – a store and apartment block with a giant order of shallow Ionic pilasters; a now-lost art deco cinema: expressions of a desire to create identity and allure in a nearly new place. Now, as in so many towns across the country, its high street has been struggling to recover whatever buzz it once had.
Daniel Rosbottom and David Howarth are architects who take subtlety and restraint to the point of austerity. The works of their practice, DRDH, include a concert hall and a library in the north Norwegian town of Bodø, whose plain white walls are designed to bring out the beauties of Arctic light. Their inspirations include the contemplative, sparse interiors that the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi painted around the end of the 19th century. They have thrived less in Britain than in some other European countries, where public clients and the processes of building are more supportive of their high-minded and crafted approach than here.