Sited in the natural context of Langley Vale, our proposal for a new Visitor Centre is a modern, yet contextual addition to the bucolic landscape of the region, emphasising visual connections between interior and exterior whilst providing shelter and a fully functional public facility for park visitors.
Acknowledging the site’s orientation and sight lines within the grounds of Langley Vale, the scheme is conceptually, programmatically, and structurally organised as a symmetrical cross defined by two perpendicular, doubly curved vaults. Similar to the hierarchy of a branch and a tree trunk, the top vault stems from the structure of the bottom vault, articulating two clearly defined axes. The three-dimensional intersection of these two geometries results in a spacious day-lit environment for a foyer, and provides a clear spatial buffer between the two main components of the program: the Visitor Hub and the restroom facilities for park visitors.
Constructed with layers of locally sourced, CNC-routed timber, the shell vaults provide a solid primary structure for its adjoining spaces, which are clad with a more conventional assembly of standardised stud walls. A timber rain screen wraps around the exterior of the building, protecting it from the elements whilst giving it a rich textural appearance—in many ways reminiscent of the vernacular architecture of Britain’s rural landscapes.
“As a result, the structure maintains a highly contextual character whilst employing cutting-edge digital fabrication methods to produce a richly layered interior.”
The siting of the building takes its cues from the existing topography of the site, framing vistas of the rolling hillside from the main axis of the foyer, and emphasising views of the reforestation area to the South-East of the site, visible from the main hall of the Visitor Hub. Existing vegetation will provide a visual and acoustical buffer from any activities and noise coming from the car park to the west of the site, whilst also providing a spatial threshold for visitors entering from the parking drop-off zone.
Material choices for the main shell structure as well as the exterior cladding are drawn from the local vernacular palette, acknowledging the building’s exposure to the elements. Sourced locally in the UK, the use of FSC-certified timber will minimise the building’s carbon footprint and maximise the building’s lifecycle, in tune with the sustainable ethos of the Woodland Trust. Our choices of material celebrate the building’s eventual weathering, deliberately minimising the frequency of operational maintenance whilst allowing the building to slowly develop a textured coloration and patina that will help it further blend into the context of Langley Vale.
“Reminiscent of both a rural shed and a catenary vault, the project truly is an architectural hybrid of sorts. It expresses rich, unique, and unexpected spatial qualities with the soft curvature of its structure, in deliberate contradiction of its humble appearance of the outside.”
Client: Woodland Trust
Use: Visitor Centre
Bldg. Area: 300 m2
Status: Design competition
Architect: LUCA POIAN FORMS