Glenn Howells Architects has completed work on the new Biffa Award Welcome Building at the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt.
Based in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, the arboretum is a Grade I registered landscape that is home to an internationally renowned tree collection and heritage area. The Duchess of Cornwall, Patron of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, marked the occasion by propagating a (Stewartia sinensis) tree sapling and officially declared the new building open.
The new, single-storey facility acts as the gateway to the arboretum and is a modest but warm timber-framed building. It is curved in plan and draws in visitors from several directions and distributes them out into the wider landscape.
True to the ethos of the Forestry Commission, the building, acclaimed for its sustainable design, has been constructed from UK-grown Douglas fir and western red cedar timber, with its floor constructed in pennant stone from the Forest of Dean.
Great attention has been paid to making sure the building achieves high environmental and energy standards and this has been rewarded through the highest possible BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) Excellent rating.
The opening also marks the launch of the second phase of Westonbirt’s plans for a new Treetop Walkway built to transport visitors up into the tree canopy, giving them a different perspective on the collection. From this elevated viewpoint they will be able to see the trees close up, view wildlife habitats and look out over the wider landscape. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum launched a £1.9m fundraising campaign at the opening, with only £600k left to raise.
Simon Pearson, associate at Glenn Howells Architects commented: We are very proud to be adding value to such an historic and internationally renowned site. This brand new facility, with great care and attention paid to visitor flow and use of materials, will greatly enhance the visitor experience and help ensure Westonbirt’s popularity for many years to come.
Simon Toomer, director of Westonbirt Arboretum said: The opening of our new Biffa Award Welcome Building marks a new beginning here at Westonbirt. Next year we hope to see the opening of a new Treetop Walkway, giving visitors an exciting new perspective on the arboretum’s trees and landscape.
The Forestry Commission hopes that the state-of-the-art facilities will give Westonbirt’s visitors a deeper understanding of and greater interest in England’s woods and forests.
The £4.3m Westonbirt Project, which also includes restoring the Grade I registered downland and activities plans, has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, the Forestry Commission, a £1.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a £500,000 Biffa Award and gifts from foundations, trusts and generous individual givers.
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