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Wolfson Tree Management Centre scoops prestigious RIBA National Award

The Royal Institute of British Architects has announced 49 winners of its national awards, and sitting amongst the luxury townhouses and a new wing for the Tate Modern, is the Wolfson Tree Management Centre at Westonbirt Arboretum.  The awards scheme ‘recognises the best buildings created in the last 12 months’.

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre consists of two buildings; designed by BBC2 TV Architect Piers Taylor to have functionality and practicality as their primary objective. The buildings are a large shed for storage and maintenance of tractors and forestry machinery and a smaller building for office and communal staff facilities. 

The pair of timber-framed buildings were designed to a tight budget and demonstrate that, with the right approach, locally sourced materials can be used, reducing both the construction costs and the environmental impact of the buildings.   Funds were raised by the Friends’ of Westonbirt Arboretum including a grant from the Wolfson Foundation.

Jane Duncan, President of RIBA said:

"RIBA National Awards provide insight into emerging design trends, as well as showing how well the profession responds to economic drivers. I am delighted to see such confident, innovative and ambitious architecture delivered in such challenging times."

Seven hand-hewn trusses of Black Pine from the arboretum form the roof structure of the machinery store, using the natural curvature of each tree for optimum structural efficiency.  The trusses then allow for a large flexible space, free of upright columns, ideal for vehicles driving in, out and unloading.  The larch cladding is made all that much more interesting by being irregular sized, randomly placed pieces adding real depth, shadow and texture to the external view.  The mess building has a Douglas fir frame with Oak cladding, also both from Westonbirt trees – its curved shaped barn roof looks to be designed for interest and aesthetics but in fact it allows the morning sun to hit the concrete forecourt of the neighbouring machinery store on a winter morning to help thaw any frosty surfaces.

Mark Ballard, Curator at Westonbirt Arboretum said:

“This is fantastic news, the buildings are doing exactly what we wanted them to do - I’ve lost count of the number of fellow professionals that have been mightily impressed The project is a real credit to the Forestry Commission for the involvement of staff, volunteers and trainee carpenters in the build and creative use of our own timber including some milling on site.”

Piers Taylor, Architect added:

“We’re really pleased,  I think what’s nice is that the buildings are quite understated - the emphasis was on making buildings that used Westonbirt  timber and resources effectively and work well for their intended purpose.”


Last updated: 10th July 2017

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