WWFT – Visitors Centre & Gateway Hide

Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Wetlands and Wild Fowl Trust-Visitors Centre & Gateway Hide & Bridge at Llanelli Millennium Coastal Park. A new visitor centre, as a stand alone interpretation building on the theme of water, accessed from the existing WWF centre by a curving glazed link corridor, built in timber, connecting to a new hexagonal two story pavilion,  set at the entrance to the new wetlands sanctuary on the Loughor estuary.

Beyond the interpretation centre the visitor enters the wetlands via a newly wooded pathway to cross a new 35 meter green oak bridge to arrive at first floor level into the dramatic gateway hide, from which a panoramic view of the wetlands and the estuary beyond can be seen. While the entry approach is blind and fully shielded to avoid any bird disturbance, once inside the ‘black box’ hide a full height 280 degree, structural glazed wall permits easy viewing of the wildlife. The glazing is shielded from sunlight and angled outwards to avoid the birds seeing the visitors inside.

The hide is constructed in softwood timber in a fan shape around two story structural green oak tree trunks and is set above a TV production suite on the ground floor. From the hide the visitor descends via a gentle wheelchair accessible ramp, shielded by a woven willow walled tunnel to the ground level circular tour pathway through the wetlands themselves.

The design was integrated with the artwork of local landscape artist Mick Petts, using sawn, riven and split green oak boarding, shakes and shingle cladding to the pattern of a heron’s outstretched shielding wings.  A heron’s crest wind vane on top of the central oak trunk acts as a marker to locate the hide from anywhere in the wetlands. Disabled toilets are included in the hide and effluent is treated nearby in cockle shell reed beds before the clean water discharges into the wetlands themselves. The landscape radiates from the building following the lines of its fan structure in the form of large ridge and furrows to create the maximum land to water contact to create wild life habitats for many creatures.

The buildings have won a number of awards including a Forestry Commission Award for the use of Welsh Timber.

See: Architects Journal issue dated 8th February 2001