HoughtonBudd Architects

RIBA International 2 Stage Competition

Our proposal for the Great Fen Visitor Centre was based on a small number of closely related themes; the field pattern of the area and its associated features; the paths, tracks and watercourses; the woodlands and geographical relationship of Holme and Woodwalton Fen's to the North West and South East of our site.

We were also inspired by the vernacular of the large agricultural buildings of East Anglia, their informal arrangements, use of inexpensive materials and mute, singular forms.

In response to these related themes our proposal used a staggered plan as an abstraction of the junctions of the existing landscape and also as an inversion of the traditional farm arrangement of functional structures grouped around a courtyard.

Four connected volumes extended out into what would become the new Great Fen with a series of useable external spaces formed by the elevations of the adjacent volumes. Each having key public or private functions as necessary with visitors entering the building at the junction of the exhibition and tea room with views being provided throughout the building.

Its external scale varied dependent on the functions contained within; two of the volumes being raised in height to provide large barn like spaces accommodating the major public functions of exhibition space and tea room to which were joined two lower volumes containing a seminar and viewing room, informal education space, public entrance, staff areas, amenities, garage and maintenance.

All public rooms would have large openings to provide views into the landscape, allowing the centre to be opened up to the outside in fine weather allowing visitors to move freely about the building and its immediate setting.

The material appearance of the centre is deliberately low key and is intended to establish a new contextual approach for the new Fen; the building will be timber built using CLT panels and coated using a traditional hard wearing paint which in its colour and tone will refer to historical methods of protecting buildings in the region and create a singular appearance to the centre.

 
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Site study

 
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Study model, solid Walnut

 
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