Through many months of careful negotiation with users, planners, Councillors, conservation groups and local residents, NPS gained planning permission in 2009 for a new Outdoor Education Centre within Exeter’s busy and popular quayside Conservation Area.
Funded by Devon County Council, the new facility which was officially opened by the Earl of Wessex in July 2013 now provides a modern hub for outdoor adventure activities for young people and adults from Exeter and across the region.
The new buildings, set between the river, canal and Listed stone warehouses, replace existing dilapidated facilities. They vastly expand the Centre’s potential with the incorporation of a 23m high climbing tower accessed by a spiral staircase, indoor rock form caving system, 7m high rock faced climbing walls, kayak and canoe equipment stores, changing facilities for 120 students, five training rooms and a wet meeting room. External areas include a new 45m long pontoon fronting the canal, dedicated service yard, new granite paved public open space and upgraded canal side public footpath.
The design approach respects its historic setting obligations by the blending of functions through three separately building forms. The main three storey centre building is sensitively scaled to present a modern interpretation of warehouse architecture with the use of Red St Bees ashlar stonework, natural slate roofing and a glazed balconied link expressing the internal vertical circulation spaces.
The stores building and climbing enclosure beyond, reduce in scale along the site making use of natural limestone, timber cladding and zinc standing seam roofing. The forms and use of quality natural materials reflect and enhance the working nature of the existing canal setting. As a stop end to the development the tower rises confidently above curved limestone walling to sit happily alongside the array of masts projecting from the boats below.
SWS worked out a schedule to provide fittings which we going to have heavy use and be safe and easy to operate. It was known that users would be wearing clothing which could impede passage through doorways and to eliminate risk of catching anything during the movement of personnel. Grade 4 Hoppe lever handles and Dorma door closers provided a reliable solution.