Text description provided by the architects. In the summer of 2018, Hampshire County Council’s Property Services completed ‘The Lookout,’ at Lepe Country Park. The project provides a restaurant, visitor information point, staff offices and supporting facilities. It forms part of an ongoing programme that seeks to transform Hampshire County Council’s biggest country parks, encouraging more people to visit more often, and stay longer, helping to make the parks sustainable into the future.
Rich in heritage and protected by numerous geological and ecological designations, it is a stunning site perfectly located to tell the fascinating story of the Solent from its post glacial origins to the embarkation of troops for D-Day. It is one of the few points within the New Forest National Park where there is easy public access to the coastline.
The beachside restaurant and visitor facility that it replaced had become dated and with rising sea levels increasingly vulnerable to damage from storm and tidal surges. Early proposals emerged from extensive consultation between Hampshire County Council and the New Forest National Park.
Conceptually the building is made up of two elements. A simple box at the rear which serves a more open public volume to the front. Over this volume is a fine pitched roof which provides the necessary shade and protection from the elements. A glazed frontage and clerestory connects the visitor to the sea and surrounding landscape but most importantly the ‘The Lookout’ is elevated some 2.5 metres above the beach and extreme high water level predicted in about 100 years’ time.
The design responds to Lepe’s unique context and coastline location. This approach takes inspiration from ‘The Sea Ranch’ by MLTW and Yoshimura’s summer house in Japan. Scharoun’s Schminke Haus and Mollino’s ski-lift were also referenced in precedent studies. The loosening of the straight line geometry of the external terraces respond to the more natural wavy edge to the sea and provided elegant, nautically styled, platforms to which the design team could land stairs and a timber boardwalks