National Park & Education Centre (Acle Bridge)

This was an open competition run by the Broads Authority for the design of a new Visitor and Education centre at Acle Bridge on in the Norfolk Broads National park.


Our design proposal for the building was to utilise the orientation and features of the site alongside the existing locally listed Stores building to form a cluster of buildings within a connecting landscape. The new buildings were positioned to address the varied site conditions and respond to them in a highly sustainable and compelling way.


Designed as two blocks situated at first floor level on a linking concrete deck, the main spaces were elevated, both raising them out of the flood risk zone, and maximising the views across the landscape to the south, west and north. Less sensitive accommodation was located at the lower level, with steps taken to protect them in the event of flooding.


Accessed directly from the bridge, the connecting platform between the buildings lead to an external stepped and terraced area, which could double as an external seating area for visitors and a teaching space for school parties, weather permitting. This stepped landscape also provided the link between the Weavers’ Way footpath to the east and west; with level access available through the site to the north.


Rather than a building to simply house educational facilities, we proposed a group of buildings which could be used as a physical tool to visibly demonstrate the issues prevalent within the Broads and the potential resolutions. The section through the site landscape is designed to represent the issues of vegetation succession, while the open and visible water filtration system could be used to educate about the issues of water management and quality. The external terraced seating area allowed the educational aspect to be undertaken in the heart of the landscape, with the Stores building refurbished and opened on the east side, addressing the seating, to provide a teaching hub or additional exhibition space.


The concrete base for the building was proposed to be formed from concrete utilising dredged sediment material within the mix, tested alongside a leading concrete manufacturer, potentially reducing the cement content. The cross laminated timber superstructures allowed for large open spans, and dramatic roofscapes. The northern block is proposed to be clad in thatch; allowing the building to demonstrate a traditional craft to education groups. The southern block is proposed to be clad in a matt black corrugated cladding, maximising the solar gain for the thermal wall, while keeping maintenance down and reflecting the local vernacular of industrial boat sheds.


Location: Acle Bridge, Norwich

Client: The Broads Authority

Status: Design complete


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