13. 11. 2013

WWF’s Living Planet Centre

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“The idea of a planet where humanity flourishes, sustainably, alongside other species, underscores everything WWF does. And perhaps the most magical quality that great architecture bestows comes in its capacity to help us flourish.”

I’ve lifted that quote out of Kevin McCloud’s celebration of WWF’s brand new Living Planet Centre in Woking, which had its official opening on Friday last week. Kevin’s a WWF Ambassador, as am I, and we’re both absolutely delighted at the sheer quality of the new HQ, which sets a real benchmark in ecologically-sound construction.

I have a double interest here: the construction was done by Willmott Dixon, of which I’m a non-executive director, and this was one hell of a project for my colleagues at Willmott Dixon! There are a substantial number of completely original features, with Hopkins as the architects, and Atelier Ten as the environmental design consultants. It’s just the most amazing building – and if you want to check out what is entailed in creating a BREEAM “outstanding” building, check out http://www.wwf.org.uk/lpc

WWF’s old HQ was on an industrial estate in Godalming. It was ghastly. As a Trustee at that time, I’d feel my spirits sink on entering the building. A fellow Trustee once described it as “an appalling building for an environmental organisation”.

Finding a new building has therefore been a priority for many years. But new, purpose-built headquarters don’t come cheap – in fact, £20 million was the cost of the new Living Planet Centre. That could have had a big impact on WWF’s ongoing fundraising efforts, but most of the money was raised through a special appeal, anchored by a donation of £5 million from the amazing Rufford Foundation – whose Chairman I was quoting in the paragraph above!

On top of that, lots of WWF’s partners piled in to help with the fit-out – with Interface providing the carpet tiles (with recycled materials in the backing, and 100% recycled yarn), CISCO using some of the refurbished kit from the London 2012 Olympics, and Kinnarps providing most of the furniture.

The Living Planet Centre is part headquarters for WWF, and part educational facility, with a great little lecture theatre and four “zones”, focussing on forest, freshwater, oceans and wildlife – all designed in such a way as to make the connections between WWF’s work and children’s everyday lives.

I don’t often enthuse about buildings, but on this occasion I really did feel it was justified!

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