by Nissen Richards Studio
Client National Trust
Awards RIBA East Award 2022 and RIBA National Award 2022 (sponsored by Forterra)
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