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Monthly Archives: November 2013

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Everyone’s natural world hero, Sir David Attenborough, may appear a little taken aback in this official photograph of the opening of WWF-UK’s £20m Living Planet Centre in Woking last Friday, when he was shown its display of iconic pandas. But there was no doubting his enthusiasm for the new Woking building, a ground-breaking and prestigious asset for the town, which will be open to the public later this month. He described it as a “fantastic eco-building that shows not only how it’s possible to use our planet’s resources wisely, but also helps us all connect with the natural world and brings WWF’s vital work around the globe to life for us, right here and now”.

Some 300 WWF staff are now working at the Woking HQ, connecting with colleagues worldwide from the UK hub of the charity’s international network for global conservation. The Living Planet Centre, designed for WWF-UK by Hopkins Architects, sits on a raised platform beneath an overarching curved roof that has photovoltaic panels for solar energy and extensive glass to maximise natural light, and four recycled aluminium wind cowls that provide natural ventilation as air circulates through the building.

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The water management system includes rainwater harvesting and recycling. Inside the entrance visitors will find four interactive, habitat zones focusing on forests, rivers, oceans and wildlife. Ground-level landscaping around the building includes a wildlife pond. The greenery extends to the platform of the building, and even the new bike sheds have a natural sedum roof. WWF will invite schoolchildren and teachers to the learning zone and wildlife pond as part of a programme of curriculum-focused workshops for primary schools. David Nussbaum, WWF-UK’s CEO, said the Living Planet Centre “allows us to open our doors and invite visitors of all ages in for the first time ever. I think this will help people really connect with our place in the natural world, and the vital conservation work they help us to fund. But our passion for nature has to be matched by a commitment to use the planet’s resources sustainably, and we can now practise what we preach from a building that shows what can be achieved when we are determined. “

WWF’s Living Planet Centre will in time help to change the way people think about Woking. In addition to the host of grey, unimaginative buildings dedicated to commerce in the town, we now have one that is innovative and a treat to admire, that looks outwards to the natural world, and is evangelistically conscious of its responsibilities to it. Along with the equally dramatic Lightbox art gallery and museum on the other side of the Basingstoke canal, it establishes an attractive corner of Woking that offers an alternative view of life, and will become a magnet for visitors. The building is remarkable for the breathtaking curve of its roof, the startling wind cowls atop, and side struts that remind this writer a little of the Martian sculpture in the town centre. And, if one can be a bit parochial and crow for a moment, Guildford has nothing like it!