A team consisting of Shiro Studio Ltd, Mesh Partnership and Equals Consulting are announced today as the winners of the Great Fen Visitor Centre competition. RIBA Competitions managed the competition on behalf of the Great Fen - a partnership which comprises the Environment Agency, Huntingdonshire District Council, Middle Level Commissioners, Natural England and The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
Great Fen is an internationally acclaimed vision, one of sweeping scale and ambition. Over the next 50-100 years, more than 3,000ha of largely arable land will be transformed into a mosaic of habitat: pools, ponds and ditches; reedbed; fen, bog and marsh; wet grassland; dry grassland; woodland and scrub. The restored landscape will be created around and between Holme Fen National Nature Reserve and Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve - precious fragments of wild fen that are home to rare and endangered species of fenland plants and animals. The new Visitor Centre will be the Great Fen’s hub - an essential part of the evolving fenland landscape, to stimulate exploration and serve its visitors to the highest standards.
Shiro Studio Ltd was selected from a five strong shortlist which also included (in alphabetical order of design team lead): Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects Ltd; Boyarsky Murphy Architects; Feilden + Mawson LLP and Foster Lomas Ltd. The Judging Panel was intrigued to see how the short-listed teams had refined and developed the design proposals submitted during the anonymous first phase of the competition. The Panel felt that Shiro Studio’s elegant proposals would sit beautifully within the expansive landscape. The team had skillfully incorporated elements of the traditional Fenland building typology within an exciting contemporary visitor centre design, whosesilvery and bog-oak black exterior, shimmering with the play of Fenland light, would contrast markedlywith, and complement, its spacious, light-filled interiors and panoramic views onto the surrounding landscape.
Members of the Judging Panel commented:
‘I am thrilled and excited that this outstanding design by the Shiro Studio team has won the competition. It embodies the spirit of the Great Fen with sensitivity, elegance, and imagination. We will create a truly special building here, one that is warm and welcoming, one that local people and visitors alike will enjoy using, and one that will reasonate with the fantastic fenland landscapebeing formed around it. The Project Partners were hugely impressed with the Shiro Studio team’s response to the competition brief, and to their understanding of and empathy with the vision of the Great Fen. We are all looking forward to working with Andrea Morgante and his colleagues to create this beautiful building, which will be a new beating heart at the centre of the Great Fen’.
Kate Carver (Great Fen Project Manager)
‘It was a great honour chairing the Judging Panel for this ambitious design competition. The anonymous first stage attracted a phenomenal number of submissions and it was a challenging task arriving at the final shortlist. The standard of the Stage 2 submissions was very high but a winner was selected by consensus following a very comprehensive judging process. In the end it was felt that the design proposals by Shiro Studio and their team best reflected the spirit of the Great Fen project and that their design proposals demonstrated great intelligence, flair, flexibility and sensitivity.’
Cindy Walters (Walters & Cohen Architects)