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Competition launched for £2m Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve visitor centre

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve in Kent
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Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) is holding an open international competition to design a flagship £2 million visitor centre at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve in Kent

Open to architects and architect-led teams from around the world, the anonymous RIBA-run competition seeks ‘unique’ proposals for a stand-alone complex at the Bradbourne Vale Road open space, which was converted from a former gravel pit in the 1960s.

The Nature and Wellbeing Centre project will deliver a visitor centre featuring a reception area, café, shop, toilets, 100-capacity flexible space, catering kitchen, exhibition area, offices and treatment rooms. Proposals should be environmentally sustainable with a minimal carbon footprint and demonstrate a sensitive response to the surroundings.

According to the brief: ‘The Nature and Wellbeing Centre will be the gateway to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. It will be a place to discover, learn, research, be active, get connected, give and explore.

‘It will be the first centre of its kind in the country dedicated to connecting people and nature in ways that evidence and demonstrate positive benefits for both people and wildlife. It will also raise awareness about the importance of conservation work on our own wellbeing and that of the planet.’

The Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve was created on the site of a former industrial gravel pit by volunteers more than 60 years ago.

The latest project aims to promote health and wellbeing by engaging visitors in activities such as birdwatching and wildlife education. It also seeks to encourage greater public awareness of nature, wildlife and environmental issues.

The building is expected to be sympathetic to its surroundings, provide a sense of arrival to the reserve, harness natural light and outdoor space, and act as a hub for other similar facilities within the Darent Valley.

Two years ago, Kent-based practice Theis + Khan defeated Tim Ronalds Architects, White Arkitekter, dRMM and Ian McChesney in an early RIBA contest to design a community centre next to the reserve.

A planning application for the new facility, which has now expanded beyond the original competition brief, is due to be submitted next month.

Commenting on the latest competition launch, KWT chief executive John Bennett said: ‘We are particularly excited to be working with RIBA to invite a truly innovative response to our vision for a new visitor centre at Sevenoaks.

‘We are extremely proud of Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve and its history, and it deserves the ingenuity, inventiveness and innovation that we know RIBA Competitions will deliver through their global community of architects. This competition will serve to provide a unique space for people to really understand their connection with nature and its impact on all of us.’

Interested teams are invited to submit anonymous conceptual proposals for the new facility. Four shortlisted teams will then receive £3,000 each to further develop their designs during the competition’s second phase.

Judges include Bennett, Lynne Sullivan of LSA Studio, who will be acting as RIBA adviser, KWT head of people engagement Stevie Rice, and KWT head of reserves David Hutton. An overall winner will be announced in May next year.

The deadline for applications is 2pm, 5 December.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

RIBA Competitions
No 1 Aire Street

Tel: 0113 203 1490
Email: riba.competitions@riba.org


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