Tropical wonderland

Center Parcs Woburn Forest

Center Parcs is a popular holiday concept in the UK which is able to welcome thousands of families all year round. As the new addition to the Center Parcs family, Woburn Forest continues the tradition of combining indoor and outdoor activities all within 375 acres of woodland. The buildings at Woburn Forest have been designed to nestle into the woodland setting and create a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere.


Bringing a Center Parcs Village together and functioning to the desired standards is a complex design and management project. Holder Mathias were given the brief of developing Woburn Forest, the fifth Center Parcs in the United Kingdom. The brief drew upon a wealth of experience that Center Parcs had gathered from their previous projects. This culminated in one of the most complex and sophisticated projects that Holder Mathias has designed in forty five years.

After careful consideration, a strategy of two main centre buildings was adopted with important principal uses:
• The Village Square: 16,000 m2 area – incorporating the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and a range of restaurants and retail outlets.
• The Plaza: 24,500 m2 area – the indoor and outdoor courts, supermarket, hotel, spa, a range of restaurants and the conference facilities. This strategy would allow for the integration of each of the buildings into the landscape and to ensure that no lodges were to be further than 600 m away from central facilities. This would also create distinctive experiences.

The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is the most popular attraction in the Village, containing children‘s and toddler pools, slides, flumes, and Wild Water Rapids. Entering past the shops the first exciting glimpses of the dramatic subtropical area are provided on the way through to the changing facilities. The Subtropical Swimming Paradise provides a range of pools and water features within a generous volume where tropical plants and imaginative, sculptural forms create a variety of experiences for guests. Steps take guests to the upper levels of the space to enjoy water slides and flumes, or simply a cappuccino overlooking the activity areas against a breathtaking view of the forest. Whilst the outdoor Wild Water Rapids ride offers an exhilarating cascade past the lake at the southern terrace.

The form of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, which represents a radical departure for Center Parcs, is conceived to allow the development of one of the most highly energy efficient leisure pools in the UK. A series of glue-laminated timber arches create a shell like form, developed to optimise the internal volume within the constraints on height, to control thermal losses through the fabric and to prevent upward light pollution. ETFE roof lights provide generous day lighting to the space whilst minimising heat loss. The building rises to its highest point at the southern elevation with a dramatic glazed wall providing daylight deep into the building and offering magnificent views across the Wild Water Rapids and woodland. The roof form shades the glazing like the peak of a cap; both to prevent excessive solar gain and to control upward light pollution.

Steel plays an important role in the construction of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise which is used in areas where lightweight and flexible solutions were required. The pool is constructed from a series of 70 m long glulam rafters interwoven with a network of galvanized and painted hollow steel sections that form a ring beam and secondary roof structure. In fact the majority of the secondary steel used within the pool is galvanized and painted to provide optimum corrosion protection in what will be a challenging environment. Smaller components used throughout the project, including balconies and the many hundreds of plates and bolts that are used within the glulam rafters are also protected in the same way. An area that is always of particular interest for children, the flume rides and in the case of Woburn Forest ’The Tornado‘, all make use of galvanized steel support structures.

Center Parcs with Holder Mathias have taken the decision not only to optimise their design but also to produce buildings that provide a long lasting, safe and enjoyable environment for their many guests.

Architect: Holder Mathias

Image: © Center Parcs

Posted on November 12, 2015 by untitled

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