LocationDartford, Kent, United Kingdom
Architect in ChargeStudio Weave
Design TeamArtlands, Structure Workshop and Nous Vous
Text description provided by the architects. Ecology of Colour brings public function to a neglected corner of Dartford by acting as a jolly custodian for the re-imagined Ecology Island in Central Park. The timber structure is a community arts studio, bird-watching hide, and park shelter all rolled into one. There is a semi- outdoor tiled classroom and storage space at ground level with an enclosed room upstairs offering views of the River Darent and surrounding trees. On the upper floor, shutters of various sizes allow for activities ranging from hidden wildlife watching and drawing, to public events that spill out into the park.
Studio Weave's brief from Artlands was to develop designs for a meaningful educational resource through placing emphasis on community engagement. The site is a curious rural pocket within an urban context, located at the tip of a wild, wooded peninsula in the heart of the North Kent town.
The creation of two intertwined cycles has guided the project: the process of extracting colour dyes and using them for crafts, and the wildlife these plants attract including insects and birds. Since its completion in September 2012, the building has become a resource for visitors to explore and learn about plants, insects and birds in all their splendid colour, the process involved in extracting natural colour dyes, and the applications of dyes in craft and architecture.
The building of the Ecology of Colour was a humble construction process that took just two months on site and completed to a budget of £45k. British timber is the predominant building material with Larch used for the structural frame while the cladding is made from Cedar. It measures 4.5 m by 7.5 m in plan and reaches 5m to the eaves and 7m to the ridge in height. The simple structure has no glass windows or mains services and offers storage space accessible from outside where various users' equipment and materials can be stored. The covered space at ground level can also be used as a drying area (for dyeing workshops).
The Cedar cladding is stained with a pattern called ‘Joy’, designed by graphic designers Nous Vous. Prior to its installation, Nous Vous ran a series of workshops with a team of local residents and artists to paint all of the 144 panels, which form the external cladding.
One of the most ambitious aspects of the design's structure is the hinged 'beak' opening on the upper floor, where the entire wall on the east elevation opens in one fell swoop through a simple pulley system. When the beak is open it gives the effect of being up in a treehouse among the canopy, with views of the river swirling past.