Langley Vale

Client: Woodland Trust
Budget: £300,000
Location: Epsom
Status: Competition Entry, in collaboration with Structure Mode

 

Competition entry for a visitor centre for the Woodland Trust.

A pair of inclined planes slice their way through the landscape, nestled into the line of trees between ‘fields’ tucking into the ground as the levels require. More than just a roof, the planes are the building, enclosing and defining the envelope and generating an axis through the site reaching deep into the wood. This axis draws the eye to the building from afar providing long, low-lying perspective views across the landscape.

The centre presents a textured face to the woodland context, with a naturally fine detail and tactility. Closer inspection reveals the substance – a thick layer of thatch over a robust timber-frame, with punctured windows on a flint-gabion base. A sustainable craft, thatching was used widely before WW1 and is thoroughly at home in a woodland setting.

Built by skilled thatchers and carpenters with repetitive frames offering opportunities for prefabrication and a fast and precise construction programme. Flint for the gabions could be gathered, with local timber and local straw.

The building works at the scale of the 640-acre wood, yet equally well at the scale of the individual. The orientation of the visitor centre along the line of the existing trees provides the key internal spaces with a dual aspect and the building with a dual face with minimal impact on the established planting.

The central entrance slices through the volume, providing clear views through the building and a light filled lobby. The main hall is punctuated by the inclined trusses with light from the roof and windows into the trees. A central ‘spine’ corridor brings light into the heart of the building, connecting visitors and staff to the support spaces.

The projection of geometry into the landscape creates opportunities for journeys, footpaths, interventions and structures. Perhaps a natural playground, a pergola covered picnic space and a ‘growing’ structure deep in the woods to commemorate sponsors and planters, clad in hardwood battens with inscriptions etched in the centre by a small machine.

 
 

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