The Welcome Building RHS Garden Bridgewater

Structural Award

Location: Manchester

Architect: Hodder + Partners

Client: The Royal Horticultural Society

Structural engineer: RoC Consulting

Main contractor: BAM Construction

Joinery: Reds Joinery Ltd

Wood supplier: Prowood Ltd, Stora Enso, Russwood, HASSLACHER NORICA TIMBER

Roof manufacturer/installer: HESS Timber GmbH

Services engineer: Hoare Lea

Species: Siberian larch (Russia), European spruce (Germany/Austria)

“An important new public building that uses the well detailed timber structure as the centrepiece of the architecture.  The structural solution provides for the necessary long spans and openness, whilst creating a warm and dramatic interior space.”
– Andrew Lawrence

The Welcome Building sits within the new RHS garden on the site of the 154-acre Worsley New Hall. The centre provides a gateway to the gardens as well as a visitor meeting and interaction point, restaurant, gift shop, offices, and educational spaces. The design is a horizontal composition which responds to a commanding horizon defined by the elevated Bridgewater Canal and the low-lying landscape, creating a linear strike in the landscape. The building is predominantly one open space. All the public elements are contained under a single overarching glulam timber diagrid, supported on structural glulam trees. The roof extends beyond the enclosure to the north and south, blurring the edge between building and landscape, where it turns up and down at its edge, responding to the location of entrances, expressing specific uses, framing views, and forming solar shading. The horizontal form is broken by projecting timber boxes sitting below the main roof line, which house prescribed uses such as kitchens, WCs, offices, and classrooms. The timber forms continue to extend east beyond the building with a timber decking floating over a new lake. Externally, the roof is clad in vertical larch, whilst the projecting boxes are clad horizontally. Glazed curtain walling spans between the ground and the roof to provide panoramic views. Natural light permeates the building through larch louvres, or filters through the diagrid via two rooflights, one running centrally and one that creates a glasshouse environment.