Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Crystal Eye Centre

You wouldn't go to the butcher's for a pair of glasses would you? Well in Crystal Palace you just might; an ex-butcher's at any rate. Ever since moving into the area I'd been intrigued by No.20 Westow Hill. It's rare in the retail world for old interiors to survive intact, so this one is a bit of a local treasure. From the exterior I'd say the building dates from the twenties or thirties. Beyond the leaded glass shopfront, itself a comparatively rare survivor, lies a simple, utilitarian green tiled interior. Above is an early suspended grid ceiling, and along one side the marble butcher's slab is still in place. 

It's a decade or more since the last sausage was sold here, and since 2007, the building has housed an optician's owned by business partners, Anand Shah & Lucy Uddin. Anand, who was born and bred in Mitcham, and went to school in Croydon, studied to be an optician at Aston University. Since qualifying he always wanted to set up in business as an independent rather than taking on a franchise of a larger company. It just so happened that the opportunity arose on Westow Hill to take over an existing optician's.

Since setting up here, Anand & Lucy have experienced both good and bad aspects of life on the Triangle. Like many others, Anand has particular frustrations with our peculiar position on the fringe of several boroughs. While the premises stand in Croydon, the other side of the street is in Lambeth, where the business rates are apparently lower and the planning rules less strict. Among its services, Crystal Eye Centre does home visits via the NHS, but this is limited to residents in the borough of Croydon, so unavailable to those just across the street. Customers actually come from far and wide to the Eye Centre, so the lack of parking is another of Anand's bugbears.

On the positive side, both Anand & Lucy rate the local community highly. From the friendly local customers who pop in, to the wonderful local restaurants. They were particularly touched by the support of the community during last summer's riots, when locals succeeded in keeping the Triangle relatively trouble free.

Anand Shah

Both business partners come from the world of science and medicine, but Lucy also takes care of the creative side of the business, with regularly changing, themed window displays.

20 Westow Hill
0208 766 7476

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

No.9 Crystal Palace Parade

When, about a year ago, my neighbour said something about seeing a planning application to convert the disused public loos on the parade into an apartment, I thought he'd been drinking. But then, some months later, Laura Clark posted a link to her blog on Virtual Norwood, and I realised my neighbour had been right all along. Laura is a young architect, and an extremely tenacious one. She first spotted the disused loos when she moved into the area 6 years ago, and it took all the intervening years to persuade the council to let her acquire the property, and get the relevant permissions, to allow work to begin. What she has achieved is an extraordinary, if  somewhat eccentric home, right here on the Triangle.

Laura Clark

The moment I first saw the project, I knew there would be a story worth telling, and sure enough, the style editor at the Saturday Telegraph magazine, David Nicholls, agreed with me. Living in Southeast London himself, he snapped up the story, and I was delighted when he commissioned me to shoot it for the magazine. Also enlisted, to conduct the interview with Laura, and write the copy, was my old friend, and fellow blogger, Charlotte Packer

To see the article as it appeared in the Telegraph, click here

Laura Clark Architect