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Four shortlisted in Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve visitor centre contest

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve in Kent
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Four emerging London studios have been named finalists in an open international competition to design a £2 million visitor centre for Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve in Kent

The practices – ArkleBoyce Architects, Ben Adams Architects, Studio McLeod and Bilska de Beaupuy, a collaboration between architect Monika Bilska and nutritionist Arabella de Beaupuy – were selected from a ‘great number of submissions’ from around the world to the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT)-backed competition.

Open to architects and architect-led teams from around the world, the anonymous RIBA-run competition sought ‘unique’ proposals for a standalone complex in Bradbourne Vale Road on a site reclaimed 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 were expected to be environmentally sustainable with a minimal carbon footprint and to demonstrate a sensitive response to the surroundings.

KWT chief executive John Bennett said: ‘We are thrilled that the competition really captured the imagination of architects around the world. We received a great number of submissions.

‘Four stunning designs have been shortlisted that we believe have the potential to realise our ambitions for this beautiful reserve. The site was the first place in the UK to redevelop an industrial gravel pit expressly to benefit wildlife. That vision has led the way for many and the area is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest.’

The site was the first place in the UK to redevelop an industrial gravel pit expressly to benefit wildlife

He continued: ‘It is very apt that such a pioneering site has provided the inspiration for these innovative and compelling designs. We very much look forward to seeing these shortlisted concepts developed into a living and useable centre that will enhance the reserve and the appreciation of the rich wildlife to be found there.’

The Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve was created 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.

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

Judges include Bennett, Lynne Sullivan of LSA Studio, who will act as RIBA adviser, KWT head of people engagement Stevie Rice, and KWT head of reserves David Hutton.

The four finalists each receive £3,000 to further develop their designs. An overall winner will be announced in May next year.

The shortlist

  • ArkleBoyce Architects
  • Ben Adams Architects
  • Bilska de Beaupuy
  • Studio McLeod with Ekkist
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