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Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve contest designs revealed

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Shortlisted designs have been revealed for a £2 million visitor centre for Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve in Kent

The schemes were drawn up by emerging firms ArkleBoyce Architects, Ben Adams Architects, Studio McLeod with Ekkist and Bilska de Beaupuy – a collaboration between architect Monika Bilska and nutritionist Arabella de Beaupuy. The designs went on public display yesterday (11 April) but remain anonymous.

The international competition, for the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) and organised by the RIBA Competitions office, 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.

Kent Wildlife Trust head of people engagement Stevie Rice said: ‘This is set to become our flagship visitor centre and the gateway and natural companion to this remarkable, pioneering nature reserve. In 1956 it became the first in the UK to be developed from a sand and gravel quarry and, in 1966, it was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

‘Our priority is to maintain the wildlife value of this important and cherished site in the heart of Sevenoaks. This exciting new building is certain to complement and enhance this very special place.’

Rice added: ’This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to engage and share our vision with the local community and beyond, and receive the important feedback that will help shape our final design choice.’

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 Rice, KWT chief executive John Bennett, Lynne Sullivan of LSA Studio, who will act as RIBA adviser, and KWT head of reserves David Hutton.

Sullivan said: ‘[The] shortlisted schemes show an impressive breadth of imaginative thinking and also address the sensitive context of Kent Wildlife Trust site.

‘The next stage will focus on looking at the designs and the practicalities associated with expansion and the experience for visitors.’

The four finalists each received £3,000 to further develop their designs. An overall winner will be announced at the end of May.

The designs will be exhibited at the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, (A25) Bradbourne Vale Road, TN13 3DH, until 29 April.

The shortlist

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

 

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