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Hampshire County Council designs coastal visitor centre in the New Forest

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Hampshire County Council was both client and designer for its new visitor centre overlooking the Isle of Wight

The council’s Property Services arm has completed The Lookout at Lepe Country Park, on the edge of New Forest National Park. The visitor centre provides an essential recreational space – with restaurant, information point, offices and supporting facilities – and aims to attract up to 450,000 people a year.

Lepe jimstephenson 3 midres

Lepe jimstephenson 3 midres

Located at one of the few points within the New Forest National Park where there is easy public access to the coastline, the existing café and visitor facility had become dated. The new design incorporates a shallow pitched roof providing necessary shading, while a glazed frontage and clerestory provides a link to the sea, with views to the surrounding landscape. The building is elevated 2.5m above the beach to reduce its vulnerability to high water levels and tidal surges.

Inspired by MLTW’s Condominium 1 at the Sea Ranch in California and Junzo Yoshimura’s summer house in Japan, the scheme provides a series of timber boardwalks and straight geometries, responding to the coastline. The scheme is part of an ongoing programme of work seeking to transform and regenerate a number of country parks within Hampshire.

Lepe jimstephenson 32 midres

Lepe jimstephenson 32 midres

Architect’s view

Although small and relatively simple, this project has been one of the most challenging and rewarding for all those involved. Restricted to a narrow margin of land ownership at beach level alongside the original café, its location tested both planning policy and the technical expertise of the designers and engineers. From the outset it was important that the building had composure in an environment that can be both beautiful and brutal.

Martin Hallum, design manager, Hampshire County Council

Hcc lepe ground floor plan

Hcc lepe ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site February 2017
Completion July 2018
Gross internal floor area 355m²
Form of contract JCT Standard Contract with Quantities
Construction cost £1.7 million
Construction cost per m2 £3,500
Architect Hampshire County Council Property Services
Client Hampshire County Council Countryside Service
Structural engineer Hampshire County Council Property Services
M&E consultant Hampshire County Council Property Services
QS Hampshire County Council Property Services
Landscape consultant Hampshire County Council Property Services
Main contractor W Stirland
CAD software used Vectorworks
Annual CO2 emissions 75kg/m² 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This looks to be continuing the tradition of Hampshire County Council creating fine new public buildings (designed in-house) in a way that's all too rare among increasingly hollowed-out local authorities these days.

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