Chafford, Main

Project: Chafford Gorges Visitor Centre

Client: Essex Wildlife Trust

Contract Value: £510,000

The Chafford Gorges Visitor Centre is located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the nature park of Warren Gorge. The new visitor centre acts as a focal point and gateway to this nature reserve.

The crescent-shaped building takes advantage of views overlooking the gorge, with accommodation wrapped around a circular shaped observation deck that cantilevers over the cliff edge. To reduce visual impact, the building is cut into the site with the upper roofs clad in sedum planting. An exhibition area and shop provide information on the wildlife in the gorge. Visitors are able to move out from this space on to the deck, en route to the base of the gorge. The centre also houses toilets, an education room, offices and workshop.

Timber frame construction has been used throughout, with western red cedar wall cladding. Full height windows provide expansive views over the gorge and exploit solar gain during winter months. A timber brise-soleil prevents overheating in the summer and provides a platform for insect loving climbing plants. The main section of the building uses a mono-pitch, open vaulted roof to encourage stack effect and improve natural ventilation.