The new Sevenoaks Nature and Wellness Centre will be a model for 21st century engagement with our environment, where nature is not “other”, but instead stitched intrinsically into the ecosystems of human inhabitation and exchange. We propose a building that both sits within the unique ecology of the Wildlife Reserve, and that generates its own ecologies – interactions of people, nature, resources, and ideas. The building is located and shaped to be in direct dialogue with the existing lakes, paths, and trees that surround it – with the goal of maximising visitor engagement with nature. Hikers are invited to both pass through and overtop of the building. Learning and socialising occur just steps away from the water’s edge. Birdwatchers are elevated into the canopy of the trees.
Punctuating the end of each arm are three unique outdoor amenities that link together the ground and roof levels – a café, a teaching patio, and an amphitheatre. The café and teaching patios extend the adjacent interior programs to the lake, and are covered by lightweight canopies with integrated photovoltaic panels that provide shelter from the elements. The landscaped amphitheatre functions both as a lecture area for school visits as well as an informal performance space and outdoor cinema. The project will create a legible, but soft gateway into the Reserve, gradually revealing itself. Visitors approaching from the parking lot are presented with a choice of walking up onto the roof landscape, or gradually down through the building where the vibrant interior of the Visitor Centre reveals itself.