The Forest Centre

Project: The Forest Centre

Client: Thames Chase Community Forest

Contract Value: £550,000

Thames Chase is one of 12 community forests in England. It comprises over 40 square miles of land on the edge of London which is being transformed into woodlands, meadows and marshes. The design of the new Visitor Centre demonstrates a modern innovative use of timber, yet respecting and complementing the original mediaeval barns to which it is connected. The barns have been restored as part of the project. The new building comprises an ‘A-frame’ structure using glue laminated beams, clad in cedar shingles. The ‘A-frame’ was chosen for its efficient structural form, quick assembly on site and suitable backcloth for the interpretive displays that focus on wood and the community forest.

Visitors enter the centre via a fully glazed west-facing porch. An interpretive exhibition occupies most of the ground floor and gives visitors an insight into the original wildwoods of Essex. There are hands-on wood based displays for both children and adults. Sustainable materials have been used throughout and an underfloor heating system, powered by a biomass boiler using locally grown wood-chip, provides heat to the new building as well as the adjacent barns.