Interactive Educational Forest Centre in Tervete, Latvia

The main goal for designing the interactive forest information centre was to create a generic contemporary addition for the nationally famous National Park of Tervete. Moreover, it also has to be an approval of the ambitions of Latvia’s State Forests to become a socially responsible company as the urgency of preserving ecosystems of forests is becoming more and more present not only on the global agenda but also local one. Therefore, the project has to become not only an educational centre that allows discovering the delight of ‘life of the forest’ but also it has to become a space for exchange of know-how of forest science between professionals, students and the general public.

In order to get the best out of the purpose and the program, the building has to become a transparent mechanism. We consider the use of new technology and the synergy with nature important but are also convinced that it is even more important to explain the visitor how the energy flows in the building and how much the building consumes. Therefore, measurement instruments and other technical installations, which normally are hidden for the eye, become part of the learning experience as exhibited along the route of the visitor. For instance, at the entrance of the building, a wood and granulate stove forms an interactive installation for the visitors as they are seeing a glazed silo of bio fuel granules in action. Also the modular structure of the building and cladding are to be used as examples of latest innovation in timber building construction.

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The building is located on the site taking into account the unique quality of the place: the verticality of a tall pine forest and the horizontality of the vacant field. The project aims to preserve this condition by minimizing the impact on the site by organizing the functions on a 10m thin strip that is dissipated through the forest. To place the program of approximately 5500m2 within the given plot borders asked for folding the strip – this not only makes the building more human and less monumental and also creates new external spaces that can be used for extending the exhibition to the outside.

The functional partitions are organised by the principle that on the one end, close to the entrance street, most public functions are situated (exhibition halls, shop, restaurant), at the other end of the building the most professional functions (workspaces and other specialised information areas). The spaces are planned in order to make them adaptable as possible to all current contemporary multidisciplinary needs. For example, the forestry woodworking parts as well as the forestry cabinets can be combined into one classroom. Administration is placed on the second floor together with the auditoria and other know-how departments. In the plan we also provide a multifunctional space that could be used for a wide range of learning classes: e.g., learning classes for students, media centre and reading room equipped with appropriate equipment.

The main entrance zone to the building is a walk through interior space that can be fully opened in the summer for continuous crossing. It is the hub space between the car park and the new pedestrian bridge that will connect the entrance of the current Tervete Nature Park. This zone merges with the restaurant, the shop and the ticket office. The training rooms are also connected to the space and could be connected with the entrance zone if needed, for instance for receptions of Latvia’s State Forest or other forestry companies.

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The main exhibition is located in the most accessible part of the building and uses the full height of 9 meters. Apart from the rest of the space program of the exhibition, the auxiliary rooms are located. They make direct delivery of goods possible that will not interfere with the visitors flow. It assures the well functioning of the exhibition as well as future plans to change the exhibition.

Following developed layout of the program splits the exhibition hall into five areas – general education, spring, summer, autumn and winter. The exhibition is planned to be illuminated by artificial and natural daylight. Skylights of each zone are oriented towards one of four compass directions, therefore natural light for each zone shall be determined by its own season. Flexibility of the exposition, thanks to the unified construction principle and the linear geometry of the building, can be reconfigured or united. Taking into account the ability to open to the outside allows exposing objects or installations of non-standard dimensions or requirements.

The flexibility of the room layout offers several alternative options for the composition of the exhibition en organisation of the visitors flow. The full height – 9 meters – remains over the whole building. The ‘heart’ of the building is the biomass heating system. It is possible to organise the flow of the visitors not only as a continuous loop which gradually passes through the general entrance space and the four seasons and finally returns to its starting point. By transforming the partition walls in the exhibition area it can also get a corridor from which there is a freedom to walk into any of the thematic spaces, thus motivating the visitors to take control over the way they want to read the exhibition and get acquainted to the objects. As a third alternative, the architects provide a completely open plan that could get any configuration in the full height of the hall as well as having a free and organic flow of visitors.

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