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NEWS RELEASE No: 1667122 JUNE 2017

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, scoops a most prestigious national award!

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The Royal Institute of British Architects has announced 49 winners of its national awards and sitting amongst the luxury townhouses and a new wing for the Tate Modern is the Wolfson Tree Management Centre at Westonbirt Arboretum.  The awards scheme ‘recognises the best buildings created in the last 12 months’.

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre consists of two buildings; designed by BBC2 TV Architect Piers Taylor to have functionality and practicality as their primary objective. The buildings are a large shed for storage and maintenance of tractors and forestry machinery and a smaller building for office and communal staff facilities. 

The pair of timber-framed buildings were designed to a tight budget and demonstrate that with the right approach locally sourced materials can be used, reducing both the construction costs and the environmental impact of the buildings.   Funds were raised by the Friends’ of Westonbirt Arboretum including a grant from the Wolfson Foundation.

Jane Duncan, President of RIBA said:

"RIBA National Awards provide insight into emerging design trends, as well as showing how well the profession responds to economic drivers. I am delighted to see such confident, innovative and ambitious architecture delivered in such challenging times ".

Seven hand-hewn trusses of Black Pine from the arboretum form the roof structure of the machinery store, using the natural curvature of each tree for optimum structural efficiency.  The trusses then allow for a large flexible space, free of upright columns, ideal for vehicles driving in, out and unloading.  The larch cladding is made all that much more interesting by being irregular sized, randomly placed pieces adding real depth, shadow and texture to the external view.  The mess building has a Douglas fir frame with Oak cladding, also both from Westonbirt trees – its curved shaped barn roof looks to be designed for interest and aesthetics but in fact it allows the morning sun to hit the concrete forecourt of the neighbouring machinery store on a winter morning to help thaw any frosty surfaces.

Mark Ballard, Curator at Westonbirt Arboretum said:

“This is fantastic news, the buildings are doing exactly what we wanted them to do - I’ve lost count of the number of fellow professionals that have been mightily impressed The project is a real credit to the Forestry Commission for the involvement of staff, volunteers and trainee carpenters in the build and creative use of our own timber including some milling on site”.

Piers Taylor, Architect added:

“We’re really pleased,  I think what’s nice is that the buildings are quite understated - the emphasis was on making buildings that used Westonbirt  timber and resources effectively and work well for their intended purpose”

Notes to Editor

Media contact: Heather Lilley, Communications Manager, Westonbirt Arboretum, Forestry Commission:   0300 067 4817

Architect: Piers Taylor, Invisible Studio

Machinery Store Contractor: Carpenter Oak and Woodland

Mess Building Contractor: Perchard & Co

Structural Engineer : Buro Happold

1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to five national collections, the arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains nearly 15,000 labelled specimens. Visitor numbers are 500,000 a year, with a membership of over 27,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford and later developed by his son George Holford. Unlike many arboretums, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. Visit

2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment.  Further information can be found at

3. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum was formed in 1985 by a small group of volunteers. Today it raises money to help protect and preserve the arboretum, enhance public enjoyment and knowledge of this world renowned tree collection and secure its sustainable future. The charity raises funds through a membership scheme with over 30,000 Friends, fundraising activities and the hire of the Great Oak Hall.  The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum is a registered charity (no. 293190). More information at  

4. More information on The Westonbirt Project can be found at

5. The Wolfson Foundation ( is a charity that was established in 1955.The Wolfson Foundation supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health & disability, education and the arts & humanities. All funding is based on expert peer review.