In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

Great Fen

Our proposal for the Great Fen Visitor Centre was for a collection of habitats for humans and animals, dotted across the expansive site. At the heart of the design is a cluster of pavilions that form the core visitor centre. The pavilions gently float on the restored fenland, anchored to a constellation of masts.

The fenland would be restored through controlled flooding of the arable farmland. In arranging the masts, walkways and structures of the visitor centre, we have emulated the patterns of constellations to form the infrastructure for the development.

This creates a development that envelops the landscape and mingles with it. The orienting reception pavilion is located at the centre, with the tea room, gift shop, exhibition space and school-like facility surrounding it. A shelter, small boat house, and tower from which to look over the whole site complete the ensemble.

We have designed a distributed form that: brings the fenland into the visitor centre; welcomes evolution over time through community builds, apprenticeships and working holidays; is ideal for incremental development and funding. The choice of materials and construction allows community involvement in the making.

Sponsors might fund and have a particular pavilion dedicated to them, or individual masts could be funded in return for a name or message engraved on the mast and a certificate similar to that issued when adopting a star.

For Great Fen we proposed flattening the outdated hierarchy between humans and nature by making buildings that invited them to live alongside each other.

Our approach has been guided by the idea that we don’t want to live in a fortress, ‘safe’ from nature. We want to share the landscape…

Prepare the ground: Restoration of the fenlands through controlled flooding of arable farmland provides an increase of habitat for native species of flora and fauna.

Plant the seeds: A constellation of masts is planted across the landscape, forming the infrastructure for the development and access to the wetlands.

Join the dots: Shelters, pavilions and a variety of habitats for a variety of creatures are built off and moored to the constellation of masts.

The masts are planted in the landscape and the structures moored to them.

Lots of different spaces coexist: from wetland burrow to gift shop to roost in the sky.