Rainham Marshes: Designer Birdwatching


When you think of organizations at the cutting edge of green design, the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is not the first to spring to mind. All this may well change however, as the conservation group recently unveiled an innovative new hide and education centre at Rainham Marshes in Essex. The Guardian recently published a glowing article by Janathan Glancy about the site here, from which we borrowed this rather wonderful photo by David Levene. Praising it’s simplicity and lack of gimmicks, Glancy's description certainly intrigued this Treehugger (and ex-bird watcher). In these high-tech times, it is nice to hear about an environmental education centre that focuses on, well, the environment, rather than touch screens and multi-media displays. Designed by Van Heyningen and Haward Architects, the Guardian hails the new building as as "one of the best new buildings in the Thames Gateway". Not only is the project visually stunning, but it also boasts some of the latest in green technology, including sheep’s wool insulation and rainwater harvesting. Apparently there is also talk of a wind turbine, though there are still some concerns about whether this would pose a danger to the reserve’s abundant birdlife or not. As a result of its secluded yet urban location, the project also features some innovative anti-vandal design elements. The building can only be accessed via a drawbridge which is hoisted up at night, and windows are covered up by timber-clad shutters.

The Guardian article also includes a list of other ‘great bird hides’. It seems the UK’s birdwatchers may be ahead of the game in terms of eco-chic design after all.

[Written by: Sami Grover]

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