Designed by Zminkowska De Boise Architects, the visitor centre at Country Boarding Kennels in Slip End, near Baldock, Hertfordshire, acts as a hub for dropping off and collecting dogs, as well as directing visitors to facilities around the site. Inspired by vernacular buildings, including agricultural barns and the local village hall, the building comprises a steeper pitched roof to the south-east, a shallower pitched roof to the north-west, a central clerestory, and a portico wrapping around most of the south-east elevation. Viewed from across the fields, the building’s simple elemental form suggests a primitive hut in the landscape, but a closer study reveals a more developed response to site, brief, and tectonics, says the architect.
A blue engineering brickwork plinth is located beneath well-insulated and sealed timber-framed walls and roofs. The portico is constructed from over-sized timber posts and beams covered with translucent profiled GRP sheet cladding. Oiled black, vertical board-on-board timber cladding is combined with black, pvc-coated profiled steel roofing. Detailing is simple but expressive, with joints between materials expressed, and bolt, screw and nail heads left exposed.
Inside, beneath the steeper pitched roof is an open-plan hall with a reception desk, a small shop, cafe-kitchen, seating area, and wide circulation space for people and dogs. Under the shallower pitched roof is an office, toilet, store and plant room. Finishes and fittings are robust, as well as easy to clean and maintain. The floor is covered with dark grey terrazzo patterned vinyl sheet to provide a comfortable surface for dogs’ paws. The walls and ceilings are lined with birch plywood, which is sealed with gloss paint at low level, and clear lacquered at high level for material warmth.
Natural lighting and ventilation are provided by the large south-east-facing windows and electrically operated clerestory lights. Other services include an underfloor heating system, heat recovery ventilation, and photovoltaic arrays located on three of the adjacent kennel blocks.