Wimpole Visitors Centre

Client: National Trust
Location: Wimpole, United Kingdom
Practice: Caroe Architecture
Role: Senior Designer
Budget: Confidential
Consultant Team:
Engineers – William Firebrace Partnership
Quantity Surveyors – Sherriff Tiplady Associates
Accessibility Consultants – IDACS
Traffic Modelling – Crowd Dynamics
Landscape Architects – Dominic Cole Landscape Architects
Acoustics – Cass Allan
Archaeologists – Oxford Archaeology
Ecological consultants – National Trust

Wimpole Hall is a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire. Caroe Ltd carried out a feasibility study to relocate the existing car park outside of the Capability Brown landscape. Working with a multidisciplinary team and the trusts regional project management and curatorial teams, we developed a proposal due for completion in spring 2020. The project involved a new visitor welcome building, car park for 1600 cars, services building, new path through a scheduled monument, listed parkland and SSSI, removal of existing car park and restoration of listed parkland, as well as the replacement of the main sewerage system and pumping station for estate, a new substation and grid connection.
As well as involvement in master planning, landscape and infrastructure design, as Lead Designer for Caroe Architecture Jim was primarily responsible for the design of the new National Trust Welcome Building, designed to welcome over 400k visitors a year.
The Welcome Building is a gateway from the productive agricultural landscape of Cambridgeshire into the designed parkland of Wimpole. It is deliberately humble in its materiality and form. The proposal respects the careful deployment of buildings and paths in the slow but ever-evolving landscape that makes Wimpole a delight for so many.
The proposed new buildings are conceived as a set to be understood together. There is not a dominant hierarchy of buildings but a simple and well judged response to the operational needs of the National Trust, the need for an intuitive and understated approach and entrance for the visitor, respecting both the designed landscape beyond and productive landscape in which this new building is located.
Working in such a complex and significant environment requires an understanding of the many and competing constraints. Within these constraints, the project is found. Through carful consultation with the design team, client and relevant statutory authorities is then developed into the final design and taken on site.
Every organisation has its own decision-making structures and internal or external funding requirements, understanding and working with these is as important to the success of the project as any of the heritage, environmental or statutory constraints.
There is a deep satisfaction in working on a scheme that navigates competing and complex demands, and delivers a simple and appropriate architectural design that meets the brief and the needs of the client and users for many years to come.