Cory Environmental Visitor Centre, Essex

Competition winning design for a new visitor centre for Essex Wildlife Trust on a landfill site overlooking the Thames Estuary. The park aims to re-establish the natural wildlife habitats of the area and forms part of a series of open green spaces along the Thames. The two-storey Visitor Centre provides an information and assembly point, children’s education centre, and community hub. The building sits on a capped landfill site and it was not possible to excavate more than 100mm into the ground for the foundations, to prevent perforation of the capping layer. Additionally, under the weight of the new building the variable ground may settle by as much as a foot. Consequently the lower storey has heavily reinforced, storey-height concrete walls that are designed to allow the building to float on top of the landfill. Jacking points are designed into the building’s steel superstructure around the perimeter that enable segments of the building to be jacked up should there be any differential settlement of the landfill beneath. The design is highly sustainable, using the circular shape to conserve heat by minimising the extent of the external envelope. Insulation and airtightness reduce the energy consumption, with the heating being provided by a log boiler using locally-sourced timber.

Completed 2012.

Essex Wildlife Trust

van Heyningen & Haward


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