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Sutton Hoo

by Nissen Richards Studio

Client National Trust

Awards RIBA East Award 2022 and RIBA National Award 2022 (sponsored by Forterra)

© Gareth Gardner

With a visitor centre completed less than two decades ago (van Heyningen and Haward Architects 2003), ‘What more does Sutton Hoo possibly need?’, you might ask: well, it needed a tower, and now it has one, in this extremely brave piece of commissioning by the National Trust, who detected a lack in visitors’ ability to appreciate and comprehend this deeply significant historical landscape.

Nissen Richards Studio have proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of filling in the gaps in the ability to understanding this charged landscape. Their combination of architectural design and interpretive and conservation expertise has allowed them to develop a narrative walk from site entrance through to the burial mounds, while also refreshing the various moments encountered along the way. Their work has involved a refresh of the original visitor centre and its exhibits of elements from the burial mounds, a clearing out and recasting of Tranmer House, the original house on the property, as well as the bold tower, as the culmination of the interpretive route.

For the first time, it is now possible to see the mounds from above, where their interrelationship to the wider topography becomes apparent. From this commanding vantage point among the trees one can see to Felixstowe and Woodbridge, marking the course of the River Deben - the river that brought the site to such original significance.

The tower is expertly sited in the tree line, much appreciated from the outlaying walks around the estate. Its scale and position was proven by the judicious use of an on-site cherry picker. Great care has been exercised to minimize damage in installing the structure on the site and no services have been provided to the location to ensure that its impact was as light as possible.

The tower is built using local skills in the region, using a rich palette of steel panels and steel frame, with a beautiful grain achieved through the galvanising process, overclad with a charred larch boarding rainscreen.

Contractor VINCI Facilities

Structural Engineer Price & Myers

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant Aecom

Environmental / M&E Engineer OR Consulting

Landscape Architect Terra Firma

Lighting Design Arup

Principle Designer ORSA Projects

Project Management Aecom

Internal area 990 m2

© Gareth Gardner
© Gareth Gardner
© Gareth Gardner
© Gareth Gardner
© Nissen Richards Studio
© Nissen Richards Studio
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