The Nature and Wellbeing Centre appears through the trees when the visitors start walking towards the lakes. Situated along the main path, on the narrowest part of land between the two lakes, it provides a sense of gateway into the reserve whilst it inserts softly into the topography and forest.
The structure emerges on both sides covered by a green roof, like slices of nature that would have been lifted up to open views onto the lakes. The centre is an ecosystem in itself, a living building where new species of plants can grow and birds can find boxes included in the solid parts of the façade to nest.
The path leads to the main entrance and reception and then follows its way across the reserve.
Once inside the building, the ring-shape layout enables the visitors to experience a 360° view around the site and makes them fancy discovering more of the reserve, the Darent Valley and wildlife in general.
On the East side, the exhibition spaces make the most of the beautiful views over the existing nesting islands and the wider landscape; on the West side, the café, its terrace, and the studio enjoy the afternoon sun and the great views onto the future islands within the West lake.
The staff area and the treatment rooms benefit from the serenity and privacy of the forest.
To reduce the impact on the environment and the wildlife during the construction on site, both the main building and the facilities building are designed as timber structures, with green roof complexes and façades made of double glazing windows and insulated timber panels.
This solution, based on prefabricated elements, needs a lot less time on site and is much less noisy and disturbing for the reserve..