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Competition: Kemeri Visitor Centre, Latvia

An open international contest is being held for a new visitor centre within Latvia’s Kemeri National Park (Deadline: 12 October)

Open to individuals and teams of up to four members, the competition seeks environmentally responsible, cost-effective and low-maintenance proposals for a new welcome facility for visitors to the park’s 1.4km-long Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk.

The call for proposals, organised by BeeBreeders in partnership with the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency, follows an earlier contest for a new accessible observation tower connected to the boardwalk. Proposals must include a small café, outdoor camping terrace, a playground, car park and ticket booth.

Contest site in Latvia’s Kemeri National Park

Contest site in Latvia’s Kemeri National Park

Contest site in Latvia’s Kemeri National Park

According to the brief: ‘The Great Kemeri Bog Visitor Centre architecture competition is the second in a series run in conjunction with the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency. The participants are invited to submit designs for an entry point to the nature park.

‘As the Latvia Nature Conservation Agency has expressed an interest in the construction of the visitor centre, designs will need to be both in keeping with the look and purpose of the national park, while having the potential to become an iconic landmark in its own right.’

With around 54 per cent of its land covered in forest, Latvia is home to a diverse ecosystem, which includes rare black storks, otters, beavers, lynx, and wolves; as well as large numbers of deer, wild boar, elk and red fox. Protected wildlife zones account for approximately a fifth of the country.

Contest site in Latvia’s Kemeri National Park

Contest site in Latvia’s Kemeri National Park

Contest site in Latvia’s Kemeri National Park

Eco-tourism is a growing trend in the region, and Bee Breeders previously launched separate competitions for a guesthouse and spa offering blue-clay treatments in rural western Latvia; an observation tower at the Pape Nature Park; and a meditation retreat in the eastern region of Vidzeme.

Kemeri is Latvia’s third-largest national park and is located around one hour from the capital Riga by train. The bogland habitat features a large network of wooden boardwalks which allow visitors to explore its unique ecosystem.

The latest competition focuses on an existing car park used by visitors to the boardwalk, and aims to deliver a new welcome centre featuring a small exhibition space, café, outdoor servery and toilets. A playground, terrace and camping area will also be required.

The competition language is English and anonymous submissions should include four A2-sized display boards featuring plans, sections, elevations, diagrams and renders.

The overall winner, to be announced on 5 December, will receive a $3,000 prize while a second prize of $1,500, third prize of $500, student prize of $500 and green prize of $500 will also be awarded.

How to apply

Deadline

The registration deadline is 12 October and submissions must be completed by 8 November.

Fee

Advance registration from 9 June to 20 July: $120

Last minute registration from 21 July to 12 October: $140

Contact details

Email: hello@beebreeders.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Kemeri National Park from ELM MEDIA on Vimeo.

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park visitor centre case study: Q&A with Meryl Townley

The partner at van Heyningen and Haward Architects (VHH) discusses lessons learned designing a new visitor centre in Thurrock, England

Meryl Townley

Meryl Townley

Meryl Townley

How did your project create a new landmark visitor centre for the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park?

The brief for the Cory Environmental Visitor Centre was a building that would communicate the natural, historical and regenerative aspects of the site in an approachable way. The park is a transformation of a landfill site and together with the building is an exemplar regeneration project. The drum shape is a powerful form and set atop the site creates a strong new landmark for the client, Essex Wildlife Trust, visible from afar and providing visitors panoramic views from within. It has a distinctive presence within the landscape, and references other coastal landmarks such as Iron Age Scottish Brochs and 19th-century Martello towers. However, it is not defensive, rather embedded in the landscape and provides a pathway that connects it to walks within the park and offers a gathering place for visitors who want to shelter, rest and refresh. Similar to vHH’s visitor centre for the National Trust at Sutton Hoo, it has the flexibility for people to arrive at the start, during, and end of their visit or it can be a destination in itself. It predominantly serves the local area and yet welcomes those visiting for the first time.

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Source: Image by Giles Hoeg

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

vHH also generated the circular form by the desire for the building to be fully accessible, to take visitors on to the roof and allow them to experience changing perspectives and views of Thameside Nature Park on the way. Through our experience of designing a visitor centre for the RSPB in nearby Rainham, we were mindful of the need to avoid visitors disturbing the wildlife they have come to see. The spiralling ramp is therefore camouflaged by vertical timber fins, which help screen visitors from wildlife and provide passive solar shading. Utilising a compact form, and choosing materials for longevity, character and reduced embodied energy were all key elements to the passive energy design. A log boiler provides heating with a central ‘hearth’, and the timber used is cropped from a nearby Essex Wildlife Trust estate.

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Source: Image by Giles Hoeg

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

What advice would you give to contest participants on designing a new visitor centre for the Great Kemeri Bog in Latvia?

Fully understand the context, appreciate its uniqueness and respond with an idea that reflects this and ensures that the building is embedded within the site. Visit the site if at all possible! Think about how visitors will arrive and move through the visitor centre and the landscape. Enhance their experience to allow them to explore more about the environment during their visit. Aim to captivate and inspire the visitors as well as the judges.

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Source: Image by Giles Hoeg

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park by van Heyningen and Haward Architects