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Great Fen Visitor Centre, UK by CMJN.

Images: CMJN.

The Great Fen Visitor Centre is a convincing attempt to intervene in a delicate landscape that man has radically altered since the 17th century, but which nature has resolved into a stable ecosystem of great beauty and value. The Fens were marshlands drained for agriculture. Subsequently, great swathes of peat were cut from the land for both fuel and agricultural nutrient. The result now, is a series of waterways teaming with diverse wildlife.

The French Practice CMJN won a competition with this delicate proposal they liken to a precise surgical intervention that, like acupuncture, works to enhance the natural rhythms and resources of the body. Their aim is to cause minimal disruption to the site's ecological balance, whilst restoring the landscape to work more closely with the annual cycles of rising and receding water.

At the heart of the masterplan is the restoration of the fens reintroducing wetlands that have been drained for centuries. The new building will sit slightly above the ground touching it only where necessary, and becoming one of the many dry islands in the landscape.

The shape of the building draws on natural shell forms and is conceived to recede into the landscape. The spaces within the building are regarded as temporarily defined in terms of their function, and can be adapted to remain relevant to visitor needs without costly and damaging reconstruction. As you would expect, water and energy are harvested from natural resources, whilst careful planning utilizes sunlight and views to the utmost.

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