Erect Architecture designed the new centre for the London Wildlife Trust at Camley Street Natural Park, a nature reserve and Site of Interest in Nature Conservation set in the heart of the King’s Cross regeneration area.
The learning and visitor centre is intended as a gatehouse to the park and comprises a multi-purpose leaning space, staff office and volunteer facilities alongside a cafe. It will allow the trust to work to expand its reach to 40,000 visitors each year. David Mooney, the director of development at the London Wildlife Trust, spoke to Architecture Today editor Isabel Allen about the importance of inner city biodiversity in an episode of our Habitat Matters podcast series.
The timber-framed building, which also has breathable wood-fibre insulation, is clad in vertical lengths of larch wood that have been darkened with a natural stain as part of a sustainability strategy that also includes passive cooling, recycling rainwater and LED lighting.
The building is defined by its large overhanging roof structure, which is topped by a pair of angular and facetted roof lights that funnel light and fresh air into the interior. The forms take inspiration from the area’s industrial past, which operated as a coal store in Victorian era. The centre is located just a stone’s throw from the Heatherwick-redeveloped Coal Drops Yard.
“The roof form with three inverted ‘hoppers’ takes inspiration from the industrial heritage of the site. The chimneys are biodiversity habitats for nesting as part of the ecology strategy,” explains the practice. “The two pyramidal rooflights fill the space with light. The chimney is a key part of the stack ventilation strategy: the external walls of the building have manually operated vents which can be left securely open overnight to ventilate the space naturally.”
Glass bi-folding doors give each space views to the canal or nature reserve, and allow the rooms to be connected to a broad patio surrounding the centre. The entrance to the northern side of the building is spacious enough for the erection of a marquee to increase capacity for the weddings, conferences and events the centre can be hired to host.
The London-based architecture practice set up by Suzanne Tutsch and Barbara Kaucky also recently completed a community centre for a church by George Gilbert Scott in Stoke Newington, north London.