Chafford Gorges Nature Park Visitor Centre, Essex, Del Carmen Blue-Black

Location: Chafford Hundred, Essex
Architect: Laurie Wood Architects, Colchester
Slate Used: SSQ First Del Carmen® Blue-black roofing slate

The visitor centre at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Chafford Gorges Nature Park is one of seven operated by one of the largest county-wildlife trusts in the UK. The centre overlooks Warren Gorge – 200 acres of tranquillity surrounded by a new, 6,500-home Thames Gateway development close to the hustle-and-bustle of Essex’s Lakeside shopping centre – and plays a key role in realising ‘biophilia’, the instinctive bond that people have with nature.

The new visitor centre accommodates a range of visitor and operations facilities in a building that’s in harmony with both its location and purpose, its curved design helping to shield the houses from the visitors gaze, focusing their attention into the gorge and its wildlife.

The concave roof is dictated by the design of the building: the front and rear elevations follow parallel curves that result in a single-pitch roof with an eaves length of 21m rising at a gentle 25° slope to a 29m long ridge. The design philosophy also influenced the choice of roofing material: slate – both a natural material and one that could be cut to shape to follow the roof’s curvature. Around 7,000 SSQ First Del Carmen® Blue-black roofing slates were hook-fixed – each being trimmed so that the 116 slates per course gradually increased from 180mm wide at the eaves to 250mm at the ridge.

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