The RIBA launched an open design competition for a new Visitor Hub to facilitate visitors on site at Langley Vale Wood supporting 180,000 visits per annum. The Woodland Trust asked registered architects, designers and landscape architects, based in the UK, to design a visitor hub that would allow visitors to dwell on site and raise the profile of Langley Vale Wood as a destination for local residents, day visitors and volunteers.
The hub we have designed is intended as an integral part of the planned, new Woodland Trust facility and aid the general establishment of Langley Vale wood as an attractive destination. Sustainability, and the expected impact that materials and construction methods will have on the landscape has been central to our design from the beginning.
Our design has drawn on the long standing agricultural vernacular prevalent throughout the area. The simple plan and materials chosen emphasise its sustainable and low impact approach. Our building provides a strong sense of arrival, a welcoming, light, airy and flexible primary space, alongside staff areas and ample toilet facilities.
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Following ongoing review of sketch designs, we continually reverted to simple, lightweight constructions. This approach, we felt was the most appropriate for the site. Internally, the simple, logical layout of the building promoted coherent access to all facilities by staff and visitors alike. The toilets, main space and staff areas are divided by a covered entrance, which can closed off by folding, secure screens out of hours whilst retaining toilet access.
Approaching by foot, the visitor is drawn towards the cut in the over-clad facade that clearly demarcates the entrance point to the hub. As reference to those involved with the Centenary woods project, past, present and future names, with be die cut into textured cor-ten panels laid as a walkway emphasising the approach to the building. Large folding glazed doors face out of from the mains space with views towards the new woodland and the memorial sculpture. This gives access to the decking beyond, allowing the main space to expanded outside when weather allows.
The primary structure of the building comprises timber posts with local foundations constructed using a continuous perimeter sub-structure of reclaimed vehicle tyres filled with a concrete and chipped stone ballast as a method of supporting the hay bale walling above. The proposed timber members are glu-laminated and fabricated off-site to be conjoined with the substructure and bolted together with the beams and purlins. Contractors and volunteers could gather or donate materials required for the substructure.
- Profiled opaque GRP ‘skin’ with timber structure beyond that protects, whilst allowing visual connectivity with hay bale insulation materials.
- Timber members, fabricated off-site, delivered ready to be swiftly bolted together.
- Hay bale insulation finished internally with lime plaster.
- High performance timber frame windows with triple glazing.
- Durable, insulated, profiled fibre cement sheeting as continuous roofing that covers the building entirely.
- Reclaimed tyres as sub-structure.
The building will be naturally ventilated via opening windows controlled by staff. Rainwater is collected locally using water butts or underground tanks for WC flushing with supplementary mains water as potable / backup purposes. A biomass boiler using combined fuelling, like timber from managed woodland and formed timber pellets stored on site will limit requirements for service connections / costs associated with underground pipework. The boiler would provide space and water heating, the latter supplemented by roof mounted solar water heating panels if required.