Sevenoaks Nature & Wellbeing Centre

The new welcome centre builds a walking trail through the reserve, from the woodland to the West Lake.

Sevenoaks Nature & Wellbeing Centre
Client: Public
Type: Civic & Culture, Education, Leisure & Hospitality
Value: £500k-10million
Date: 2018
Size: 1000-10,000sqm
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Sevenoaks, Kent, United Kingdom

Sevenoaks Wildelife Reserve, created over 60 years ago for birdwatching and nature education, invited designs for a unique new Nature and Wellbeing Centre. The site had been reclaimed from an industrial gravel pit: proposals had to prove their minimal impact on the natural setting – stretching across a woodland and a lake.

Our proposal placed the natural landscape center-stage. The Welcome Centre frames a walking ‘trail’ through the reserve, starting in the woodland, leading off the land. So as to minimize the impact on the site, the existing entrance is retained. A continuous shingle roof supported by a glulam timber frame sails over a public deck which projects over the lake on stilts. At its extremity, the trail is cantilevered over the lake. The flask-like blackened timber-clad volumes for accommodation, such as exhibition and education, are suspended from the pedestrian deck.  Some of the volumes floating above the lake are reserved for Private treatment rooms which give views across the lake as if one were in a boat on the water.

Our design allocates additional tree planting in the existing site clearing at the entrance to the building, so that the trail emerges from a denser woodland and creates a welcoming entrance. The deck and roof have wide perforations to allow trees to grow through its height, creating small terraces for education and activities while not impacting upon the site. The internal spaces are timber-lined flexible volumes, with windows both internally connecting spaces across the walking deck and outward onto the reserve. Oculus roof lanterns draw light into the rooms, creating unique views from each space into the tree canopy above.

Sevenoaks Nature & Wellbeing Centre
Sevenoaks Nature & Wellbeing Centre