TS&JT Architecture & Design

Langley Vale

Woodland visitor hub, Surrey RIBA Competition

A characterful and festive building for the Woodland Trust.

Nestling into the woodland clearing like a small encampment of ceremonial tents in a forest glade, the building is a memorable, sustainable and practical enclosure and backdrop for the Trust’s many public activities. The visitor hub has a characterful presence in the landscape, heightening the experience of its setting and the memory of a visit.

The welcoming entrance is clear, indicated by a slip in the building and articulated by the rammed earth spine wall. The generous apse-ended lobby opens onto the paved gathering space outside. In winter a fire or wood- burning stove invites chilled walkers to warm up before engaging with the Trust’s messages in the main hall. An external drinking fountain and basin serves visitors and their dogs.

The main room is bright, receiving natural light from the roof glazing and through the full height windows looking onto and across the clearing. The billowing ceiling gives the sense of a lightweight and airy enclosure. The hall may be opened up to the landscape on good days and for large crowds.

The building is placed close, but not too close, to the trees screening the car park from the site. The approach brings the visitor through the screen of trees and to a prospect over the meadow towards the new planting, with the two adjoining tent-like forms of the building in the foreground. An exterior room is formed between the long, low west façade of the building and the trees, served by a covered space with a hatch to the kitchen for take away food and drinks.

The accommodation is arranged to each side of a long, rammed earth spine wall. To one side are three principal public spaces: lobby; hall; covered external area. Other private or ancillary functions are arranged along the other side of the spine wall and are accessed internally or externally depending on their role.

  • Exterior.

  • Main hall.

  • Entrance lobby.

  • Site plan.

  • Plan diagram.

  • Plan.