Tidal Lagoon Visitor Centre by Juice Architects

March 1, 2014

The Offshore Visitor Centre is the landmark iconic building for the Tidal Lagoon at Swansea Bay, reflective of its unique setting located some 3.5 kilometres out into the Severn Estuary and representing the clean renewable energy to be generated.Combining the reference to oysters and the influences about the site, the concept is to arrange the shells to create a defensive robust outer layer made with several interacting walls. The alignment of the walls is organised to provide shelter from the prevailing south westerly wind and wave action but arranged to permit key views from the centre.The tall slot windows between the shells are reminiscent of vertical fissures in cliff faces and will capture natural light which will fall onto the curved internal walls of the Centre.Unlike the outer surfaces, the internal walls are smooth, almost pearlescent, reflecting the natural light within the centre and act as a counter point to the rough textured outer walls, again reminiscent of the form and surfaces of the oyster.The concept configuration has been developed through many iterations. During the design analysis, studio models and sketch diagrams have informed the development of these shapes to assist in the understanding of the three dimensional qualities of the building and to achieve a specific form driven by the key aspects, views and influences but one that appears natural and almost random.Due to the exposed marine environment and the consequent need to provide a robust outer skin to the building, concrete is proposed as the structural frame and main building element for the shells.The inherent quality of concrete and the construction process lends itself to manufacturing the complex shell forms and the concept design explores the possibilities that concrete offers. Through design development the shells could be manufactured locally using repetitive moulds and the tough outer skin can be produced with textured form work to create the rough texture reflecting the oyster theme.In contrast to the robust and textured outer weather protective skin, the internal walls will be a smooth plaster finish, with an almost pearlescent finish, reminiscent of the natural make-up of oyster shells. The internal make-up of the shells will be adaptable to suit the changing needs of the Visitor Centre and will be easily maintained.The space between the outer and inner sandwich skins will contain service voids to service the galleries and provide a high level of building insulation.The structural soffit of the roof over the upper gallery will be of timber construction providing a natural feel and sense of warmth. This will add an interesting contrast to the white internal walls and textured outer skins.External glazing will be in the main clear with solar performance and heat retaining qualities but with the opportunity of integrating commissioned art work comprising panels of coloured or decorative glazing produced by local artists.It is based in strong sustainable principles reflecting the clean energy it represents whilst addressing the desire to make it a memorable building, iconic, and one which creates a sense of place and wonder. It is also a building that will provide an educational, cultural and leisure base for all visitors.Whilst being a modern building tied to the Turbine Hall and and the Lagoons sustainable energy generation, it will reflect on the local history of Swansea Bay and the opportunities that the Lagoon will create in regard mariculture and leisure activities.The design is also strongly informed by local influences and the challenging marine environment. The robust defensive shells provide shelter for the Centre and the resultant forms create an extraordinary interior and memorable place.

Design: Juice Architects

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