John Innes Centre, Norwich

The proposed field trial station is associated with the well-established John Innes Centre based in Colney, which provides an important facility to support the field trials using their extensive land holding on the north side of the B1108.

The design was formulated to meet the client’s operational needs within its landscape setting. Regarding the detailed design, it was proposed to be brick and blackboarded with a recessively coloured roof and sited close to an existing general-purpose style barn (which is also proposed to be reclad). It is considered that the design (and associated landscape enhancements proposed) will help to assimilate the building into its rural setting and landscape successfully. It also incorporated PVs on the roof as an integral part of the design to ensure energy requirements can substantially be delivered from renewable sources.

Our approach was to design a simple, strong roof shape, enhanced by the shadows of its overhanging eaves, innovative industrial/agricultural materials and subdued black and grey colour palette, which conveys an image which might be seen as a modern interpretation of a traditional black barn aesthetic.

The main formal entrance was the principal point of arrival for those working there and the occasional guests. Visitors pass into the reception and display lobby, from where further progress is limited by electronic security card control.

The building plan was a simple arrangement of two large service spaces divided by a racked dry grain store on the north side (vehicle storage/deliveries and sorting). All of the smaller preparation, observation and staff areas are ranged along the southern side of the building, overlooking an area of grass rising to the boundary hedging and to Bawburgh Road.

The building interior was intended to be a comfortable and very pleasant working space. The key working spaces are environmentally controlled (to refresh after working outside in the sun) and good natural daylight was introduced through top lights and borrowed natural daylight. A landscape scheme complemented the building and its setting –rural, simple, low maintenance, natural rather than artificial. The new tree and hedge planting reinforced integration with the surrounding landscape.

The external maintenance and recladding of the existing and rather dilapidated existing barn was an important mechanism for creating a visual relationship between the two buildings – and for linking them together comfortably into the setting. The old barn was a well-proportioned structure and an established landmark on the corner of Sparrow’s Hill. Without the upgrade, however, the contrast between the new building and the old (and tatty) one would, it was felt, have been seen as stark and incongruous.