Woodland Enterprise Centre

Flimwell, East Sussex

The Woodland Enterprise Centre was a limited competition to build a complex promoting and developing woodland industry. The setting is a vacant site in Flimwell on the Kent and East Sussex borders. It overlooks a beautiful Wealden landscape which is stil supporting a limited forest industry.

The brief included proposals for an exhibition hall, a shop, classrooms and also retail, office and workshop unitis that could be expaded with growing demand. BBM put together a multi-diciplined team including enginieers, a timber expert, a materials and environmental specialist and a permiculture expert for landscaping.

Our main aims were to develop an architectural language which incorporated the best of modern and ancient methods of timber construction. We were particularly keen to use forest thinnings (saplings culled as part of managing forests) for structure wherever possible. We opted for shallow sections which could easily be spanned by these new timber systems, and would afford excellent natural lighting and ventilation properties. A simple construction system would allow the building fabrication to become part of a training scheme.

As well as materials, envioronmental control was also given rigourous consideration. A lift tower doubles as a solar chimney which would act as a giant extractor for the café and exhibition space. Primary heating would come from a woodchip burning supply, with the capacity to burn methane gas produced from the centres sewage output. We also incorporated the potential for tapping moderated air from an adjacent pine grove and from the thermal mass of the sloping landform.