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Just as we got over our Wolfson Tree Management Centre for Westonbirt winning an RIBA Award, the project has now been awarded a National RIBA Award. The Forestry Commission issues the following press release:
The Wolfson Tree Management Centre at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, scoops a most prestigious national award!
The Royal Institute of British Architects has announced the 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 Invisible Studio 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 “.
We are thrilled that our Tree Management Centre for Westonbirt Artortetum won three RIBA Awards last night: An RIBA Award, the RIBA Sustainability Award and the RIBA Client of the Year Award. This is a testament, we feel, to a remarkable project.
The project at Westonbirt – for the Forestry Commission – was won by us through a formal government tendering process and we included Charley Brentnall as part of Invisible Studio – the design team – pre contract, before he went on and won the formal tender to act as main contractor for the larger of the two projects, the Machinery Store. Charley ran a course early on with volunteers to hew the enormous Corsican Pine into the main structural members, before leading the construction phase for the Machinery Store with his extraordinary team of carpenters from Carpenter Oak & Woodland and NVQ Student Carpenters, and the smaller of the two buildings was let to Nick Perchard and Jim Symon (who were originally trained by Charley) who then then led a wonderful band of Westonbirt Volunteers in the construction of the ‘Mess Room’ welfare building, many of whom have gone on to use these skills gained from Nick and Jim in their own projects.
The engineering by Buro Happold was deceptively complex: the main timber structural members are possibly the biggest ever in UK Construction (Certainly for 150 years), and very few engineers have the nous like Andrew Wylie and Graham Clarke to understand how to use the unpredictable, ungraded, un processed, untreated timber directly from site. The Sustainability Award that we gained is testament to their thinking.
And finally – the Client of the Year Award for the Forestry Commission means so much when – as the jury citation said – this is a client that totally owns these buildings now, and fully supported the experimental, risky and unpredictable way of working that we espoused from the outset, where an option would have been to have put up a few steel portal sheds. Westonbirt had never used their own timber in any of their buildings before, and certainly nothing on this scale.