Lake to Lake

Nature and Wellbeing Centre of Sevenoaks Reserve, Kent, UK



C.     Tackling practical issues

To minimise footprint, cost of construction, security and maintenance, the proposal is limited to two main buildings, adapted to the existing open space and footprint, allowing for the old visitors’ centre to operate during construction. Existing roads, tracks and woodlands are maintained and integrated into the proposal to an extent, and their outlines determine the landscaping.

The café, studio and treatment space have separate entrances and can operate independently from the building’s core (reception, shop, exhibition, staff). The wardens’ building forms a more private courtyard that can be secured for parking and storage and is connected to the reserve’s main tracks.

The treatment rooms are located separately from the visitors’ centre and with an undisturbed view of the east lake. The idea is that they’ll be delivered at a later stage, funded and operated separately, generating long-term profit and contributing to the maintenance costs of the reserve.


D.    Materials and sustainability

The building structure consists of timber frame and hemcrete, an insulating, easy-to-make, bio- material. The whole structure is cladded with strips of locally sourced, long-lasting larch that weathers with time.

The main volume of the building faces southeast, with large glass surfaces and solar panels adjusted to the pitched roof ensuring solar energy use, while its narrow shape facilitates ventilation. Rainwater recycling is also proposed.

Excavated material reuse, prefabrication and off-site construction for minimal disturbance of wildlife, are suggested, while the combination of simple structural forms facilitates the involvement of local workforce.

Riba Competition

Collaborating architect: Katerina sfyra


A.     Vision

The main visitor’s building is the connecting “bridge” between the two main lakes, the visual and physical gateway

to the reserve and the transitional point between the more structured part of the site and the wilder areas. When

in the reserve and around the lakes, visitors can only catch glimpses of it behind the trees, resembling to a

birdhouse or a bird hide.

B.     Interpreting and engaging with the site

The design of the central building is based on two perpendicular axis. The first one runs from south to north, connecting

the main entrance with the footpaths’ crossroad, while the second one runs from “lake to lake”, ensuring that the main

spaces offer views of the island clusters, without “disturbing” the shorelines. Overlooking the east lake, the exhibition space

is organised in two levels with the highest one acting as an observatory, so that visitors can look at exhibits and the

reserve simultaneously. The cafe is situated at ground level with outdoor areas, overlooking the west lake, while

the studio is located higher to achieve views. The adjacent open space, “the tree-house workshop”, at tree canopy

height, creates an inspirational setting for workshops and events. The building’s form derives from the combination

of two perpendicular “wooden cabins” with the longer roof sloping to accommodate different spaces and frame views.

Large openings allow visitors to see and move through the building. The protected south side of the observatory

can hold nests with cameras, monitored from inside. A wooden “chimney” is in reality a bat hibernaculum.