A competition entry for the Langley Vale Woodland Visitor's centre, sited in a new woodland being planted south of Epsom Downs.
Our proposal is a building with weight, mass and a sense of permanence within a changing and developing site. The present condition of the woodland is very different to that planned for 50 or 100 years time and so this building has been designed to make sense of these changing surroundings. It does this through two main means:
Firstly, through the scale and the solidity of its construction, lending the building a a monumental quality when seen either standing alone across a field or discovered surrounded by trees.
Secondly, by making the building another experience that is part of a longer walk through the woodland. Access at both ends allows visitors to filter through the rows of large columns into the central space, like the clearing in a woodland and then back out of the other end to the landscape beyond. The central space detaches the visitor a little from the landscape outside, focusing on the sky and the light coming in from the clerestory windows. The landscape is visible glimpsed through the rows of columns at either end. The interior is one of a series of spaces one experiences when walking through the woodland paths and clearings.
Using the timber’s massive quality in a similar manner to traditional log-wall construction (the timbers laid on their side rather than used as part of a lightweight frame) would allow the use of lower grade timber.
The size of the large cruciform columns and the structural grid has been developed with timber railway sleepers in mind and it is hoped that these would be used to form the majority of the structure.