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FIRST LOOK

Knox Bhavan completes visitor centre in listed Cassiobury parkland

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The multi-purpose building provides leaning spaces, a café and changing rooms in Cassiobury Park, Watford

This building was designed as a central destination point for the park’s several thousand annual visitors, providing facilities both for the public and the park’s management. The park is a Grade II registered, 190-acre landscape on the English Heritage list for Parks and Gardens.

Late in the 20th century the park was subject to a series of popular but increasingly unsuitable additions, such as paddling pools and associated structures. The award of a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2013 provided the chance to restore this landscape and upgrade both the function and appearance of its facilities.

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Designed to ‘sit within the landscape, rather than on it’, Knox Bhavan’s new structure digs into the natural slope of the land, appearing as a quiet single-storey structure when viewed from the south. When viewed from the north, the full extent of the building is revealed and the concrete podium upon which the terrace sits can be seen.

Inside, the first-floor terrace houses an exhibition and education space which can be divided using large sliding doors, and a café and balcony on this level overlook the paddling pools below. Full-width, north-facing windows provide natural light, and sliding laser-cut Cor-ten steel panels (perforated with an abstract cedar pattern) can be positioned across the face of floor-to-ceiling openings for both shading and security purposes.

Cass p 15 sections aa bb

Cass p 15 sections aa bb

The ground floor of the new building accommodates public toilets, and sports and pool changing rooms, with the service yard for vehicles, refuse, plant and storage all tucked behind the public-facing area. To increase accessibility flush thresholds, accessible WCs and changing rooms, and non-slip surfaces have been specified.

The building is designed to have minimal energy consumption through being orientated to take full advantage of the sun, building with robust materials, maximising insulation and using energy generated solely by solar panels on the south-facing roof. A brise-soleil and overhangs prevent overheating and glare, and a rainwater-harvesting tank collects water for flushing toilets. The lower ground floor is unheated and uninsulated along its perimeter, creating a buffer zone to the spaces at the centre which are heated by a low-energy air-source heat pump, maintaining a constant temperature. 

Project data

Start date 22 February 2016
Completion date 13 June 2017
Gross internal area 735m²
Gross external area 775m²
Cost of project £1.9 million
Cost per m² £2,450
Contract type JCT Intermediate Form of Contract with Contractors Design 2011 (ICD 2011)
Architect Knox Bhavan Architects
Client Watford Borough Council
Contractor Borras
Landscape architect LUC
Structural engineer Price & Myers
Services engineer Arup Associates
Quantity surveyor F T Allen

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