Sevenoaks Nature & Wellbeing Centre, Kent (UK)

Project team: G. Corbo, J. Costanzo, V. Guerrisi.

Collaborators: L. Marcacci Balestrazzi, R. Durdun, A. Tanzola.

To be mimetic is not the answer.

In order to engage the environment in a virtuous way, design for a double user – visitors and nature – and include all the challenges that this action requests, the project should clearly recognize and optimize the critical and valuable characters of the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.

We decided to locate the footprint of the main building between the West Lake and the previous position of the Jeffery Harrison Visitor Centre, considering the typological structure of the wooden pier as a logical answerfor the complex relation between the shore and the water. The “J” shape that conforms the new visitor Centre,will allow an immersive experience between the forest and the lake, facing the new islands. This relocation considers both the issue of the flood risk, maintaining the same level of the ground floor of the previous cottage, and in respect of the riparian vegetation. The new Centre will be an extraordinary promenade, allowing a truly cinematic experience, stimulating the visitors to immerse themselves into the nature and
discover the Reserve. The pier pursues the double objective to be a see-spot on the lake – increasing the visibility of the wildlife, enabling visitors to observe and learn from the ecosystem – and provide nesting sites for riparian birds and breeding for reptiles and amphibians, creating optimal habitats in order to enrich the biodiversity of the reserve. All the activities that will be performed by the visitors will be in contact with the forest and the wetland, from birdwatching to awareness raising activities. This ribbon is designed in order to allow an uninterrupted relation of both people and wildlife, guaranteeing a safe place for children and three independent
accesses. Moreover, an outdoor theatre – with a floating stage – is placed between the new center and the lake. and To guarantee the resilience of the structure, it is designed following the natural circumstances of the seasons. The shore’s tribunes are usable as a theatre when the weather conditions will allow it and enable the water drainage and depuration when the flood occurs (SUDS).

The Management Staff Building is thought as a landmark with a simple technology, being an invitation from the distance and revealing its technical connotation (workshop for machine maintenance, dry timber storage) only when the visitors are inside the reserve, surprising them and naturally redirecting them towards the new Centre on the left. The first floor is designed on piles to separate the offices from the surrounding nature, and at the same time to enhance the natural light. The wood adopted for the pier and the interiors walls follows the specific strategy of reducing the carbon footprint of the structures and ensuring the environmental sustainability of the buildings. As the outdoor theatre, the parking lot are designed as a SUDS, replacing the asphalt with a permeable flooring to reduce the runoff.