Chilterns Gateway Centre
The new Chilterns Gateway Centre is located on an exceptionally windy site at Bedfordshire’s highest point, 798 feet above sea level.
The form of the wing-shaped roof allows it to withstand extremely heavy wind loads, and also to reflect two of the main leisure activities of the area – kite and glider flying. The landscaping is designed to be sustainable, durable, and indigenous to the Chilterns.
The building is nestled into the existing contours, with the car parks set into the contours of the site, in order to reduce impact on the immediate surroundings. Reclaimed soil and grass are used to form banks at the edge between the car park and the Downs and to prevent egress by cars on to the grassland.
Visitors arriving by coach, bicycle or car will pass across the hills with the downland interpretative gardens. The entry sequence is clearly read so that visitors follow paths that lead from the car parks to a main path, with an outstanding panoramic view across the Vale below, before proceeding to the paved entrance court.
The entrance court provides a meeting point for education groups and visitors, and its sunny south facing position makes it ideal for enjoying refreshments outside.
The fully glazed public viewing deck provides panoramic views across the Vale of Aylesbury and along the Chilterns ridge.
Designed with a clear environmental agenda, with great consideration given to reduction in use of fossil fuel energy and to adopting a palette of ecologically sound and non-toxic materials, it is a highly sustainable building incorporating many “green” technologies including a wood chip boiler, rain water recycling, and a “windcatcher” that captures the air from the hill naturally and delivers it into the building through a 90 m long underground concrete “earth duct.”
Operated by The National Trust the Centre has been designed to be flexible enough to house a diverse programme of exhibitions and events that will enhance the appreciation of the surrounding landscape.
Commissioned by Bedfordshire County Council, in partnership with The National Trust, the purpose designed Centre has replaced an undistinguished kiosk and snack bar.