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Glenn Howells’ long-awaited National Memorial Arboretum project opens

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Glenn Howells Architects has completed its £15.7 million remembrance centre at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire


Set within the 150 acre arboretum, a new public square connects the building with the surrounding landscape. 

The scheme, which has been on the drawing board since Glenn Howells Architects were appointed to the job in 2009, will expand an existing visitor centre that previously stood on the site. 

The new building houses an interpretation exhibition designed by Real Studio, shops, a restaurant and separate coffee shop and a learning centre that will allow it to increase its annual school visitors to 25,000. 

Its limestone façade references the Portland stone of the nearby Armed Forces memorial whilst a timber portico and slatted timber cloister wrap around the centre. 

A timber colonnade links the new building with the existing memorial and the millennium chapel already at the arboretum. 

Commenting on the scheme, David Whimpenny, chairman of the National Arboretum board, said: ‘Opening the doors of our new Remembrance Centre to the public marks the culmination of years of hard work and it is fantastic to see our compelling vision become a reality. We look forward to welcoming the many thousands of visitors that we are now capable of accommodating, thanks to the new facilities.’ 


National Memorial Arboretum by Glenn Howells Architects

National Memorial Arboretum by Glenn Howells Architects


National Memorial Arboretum by Glenn Howells Architects

National Memorial Arboretum by Glenn Howells Architects


National Memorial Arboretum by Glenn Howells Architects

National Memorial Arboretum by Glenn Howells Architects

Architect’s view 

The new Remembrance Centre embodies a purity of form, employing both modern and classical architectural precedents. The building engages materially with its environment, chiming with the existing structures that define the NMA and harnessing a soft material concept of larch timber and natural stone. This provides a calm and rational architectural language which compliments the NMA as a place of reflection and memorial. 

The centre piece of the project is a new public space which provides an intended assimilation of inside and outside. Known as Heroes’ Square, the landscape designed by Fira, sweeps gently to the level of the Millennium avenue, visually and physically connecting the building to the Arboretum. The square features commemorative paviours, engraved with cap badges or crests of the Royal Navy, the British Army, the Royal Air Force and City Livery Companies. A new sensory play garden, full of textures, scented foliage and natural materials engages younger visitors. 

A prominent drum is a deliberate punctuation of the unifying four metre grid applied throughout the building. It serves as a powerful visual marker in the site and beyond. At the heart of the building, the drum houses the immersive film experience. 

Project data

Location Alrewas, Staffordshire
Type of project remembrance centre
Client National Memorial Arboretum and The Royal British Legion
Architect Glenn Howells Architects
Landscape architect Fira
Planning consultant Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners
Structural engineer Techniker
M&E consultant Yes Engineering
Quantity surveyor Edmund Shipway
Planning supervisor Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners
Main contractor Stepnell
Interpretation design Real Studio
Interior design Glenn Howells Architects
Appointed 2009
Achieved planning 2012
Start on site 2015
Completion 2016
Cost £15.7 million 

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