Scout Association HQ, Gilwell Park London

The Scout Association

This limited design competition aims to create an Event and Conference Centre with a dedicated Heritage and Learning Centre and a central ‘camp square’ at the Scouting Association’s Headquarters in Gilwell Park. Located on a 44 hectare (109 acre) site in Epping Forest close to Chingford, the location has been the home of the Scouting Association for over 100 years.

The brief calls for an outstanding building which offers a true sense of place and recognises the significance and history of this location. Scott Brownrigg’s design and architectural interpretation understands implicitly what cultural values lie at the heart of the scouting movement. The design interprets these values physically as a group of humble yet profound buildings that provide a mixture of fun, learning and enjoyment of the natural world, whilst being safe and secure. These values ultimately work within the context of the wider environment and recognise the importance of Gilwell Park, its traditions and history.

The buildings are flexible and modular to allow for the diverse range of activities to be undertaken now and in the future and are arranged around a central ‘heart’ space where all can gather for formal or informal gatherings. The circular arrangement allows views in and out to the parkland beyond and to the Bomb Hole which provides for a number of water based activities.

The Heritage Centre has the most prominent presence on the site and will house and display collections and attract historians, anthropologists, sociologists and the wider public in increasing numbers. It is split into two conjoined elements- a curved main space and a subsidiary square to the rear. The rest of the accommodation including retail, restaurant and the ablutions block is organised in a series of rectangular radial blocks. The curved/radial form allows for a ‘journey’ of discovery as views and spaces are revealed.

A winding pathway through the site creates the opportunity for experiences to take place along the route, a chance for learning and interaction. A strategically placed series of vertical information panels inform the visitor along the arrival sequence, whilst the introduction of a sculptural pizza oven provides the opportunity for Scouts to cook, create and have fun.

Its natural setting within the Green Belt has been carefully considered in terms of bulk, massing and use of materials, with natural materials, living roofs, soft undulating forms and a dialogue with local context incorporated. The buildings will age and blend organically with their surroundings, yet retain their essential quality and longevity. This will also allow the scheme to maximise its ‘passive’ potential in terms of energy use. In terms of aesthetics and performance, roofs will consist of gently sloping living roofs, combined with standing seam metal (copper,terne coated steel or zinc).

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