© Ian Simpson Architects
© Ian Simpson Architects

National Wildflower Centre

We teamed up with Ian Simpson Architects to deliver a stunning competition-winning design for a sustainable visitor attraction to complement the existing buildings in Merseyside’s National Wildflower Centre.

The purpose of the new centre, set within a 14 ha Victorian park, is to encourage visitors to learn about the links between nature and theoretical science, and this is reflected in the very form of the building: the curved main section, and the ‘bud’, or dome, were designed using a mathematical concept found in nature within seeds and plants.

The main block is single-storey, with an accessible workspace at roof level. Good ground conditions allowed us to propose a ground-bearing concrete floor slab, with traditional timber joists spanning over a waterproofed storage basement. The roof area and the floor over the basement were constructed from timber joists with purlins spanning between and ply decking above. Stability was gained through the curvilinear shape, and the stiff concrete staircore.

The self-stabilising dome structure was more complex, incorporating curved glulam ribs interconnected by a network of softwood purlins. The external skin comprised ‘sandwich’ construction, with insulation set between an inner layer of fabric and an external timber ply skin. The ply skin was then clad with reflective disks, which again followed the spiral of the Fibonacci sequence.

An emphasis on sustainability was important, and we worked to salvage existing materials wherever possible. This is manifested in bricks taken from an existing garden wall reused in part of the new building’s brickwork façade, and in the recycling of basement arisings to form a rammed earth wall used as an exposed feature of the main building. We designed the timber joisted roof to withstand the vertical loads of PV arrays running along the length of the main building to generate sustainable energy, and a section of green roof at its southernmost tip.

Striking new addition to the National Wildflower Centre, with a design based on geometries found in nature

Liverpool, UK
SimpsonHaugh & Partners
£ 5 million