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Visitor centre fit for a king

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Timber frame and softwood cladding have been used on the new visitor centre at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, the burial ground of the seventh-century kings of East Anglia. Architect van Heyningen and Haward designed the two buildings, one to house the exhibition and audio-visual theatre and the other as a reception area with cafe, kitchens and shop. The exhibition contains the reconstruction of a burial ship, a treasury room where some of the original finds are on display, and a film viewing room.

Both buildings are framed with Douglas Fir and clad with softwood weatherboarding, a traditional construction method common to the region.The cladding and frame are treated with environmentally nonpolluting preservatives.

Douglas Fir echoes the materials used in the Anglo-Saxon burial ship.

The buildings have pitched roofs with purlins and rafters supported on 150 x 150mm square Douglas fir columns.The frame is braced and connected using exposed metal rods and brackets, echoing the metal rivets that connected the timbers of the Anglo-Saxon ship. The ceiling is clad with softwood boarding slats with an intumescent coating; the slats are spaced apart and backed with acoustic insulation to allow sound to be absorbed. The structural engineer was Price & Myers.

Chris Wilderspin, project architect for the visitor centre, said: 'Timber is part of our ethos, it's a very sustainable resource and the use of timber matches the philosophy of the National Trust to commission buildings which are sympathetic to their surroundings.'

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