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The Earth Centre and Solar Canopy


In Brief


Client:
The Earth Centre

Location:
South Yorkshire

Construction Value:
The Earth Centre: £7,000,000
Solar Canopy: £2,000,000

Completion:
The Earth Centre: March 1999
Solar Canopy: August 2001

The Earth Centre is a large-scale visitor attraction providing both education and entertainment around environmental issues. It exists on a 300-acre site in one of the most environmentally devastated areas in the country, the coalfields of South Yorkshire. 

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios were appointed initially to help with the masterplan process, and thereafter to design the Entrance Buildings. Our aim was to demonstrate the potential of environmental design principles, integrating a low energy building with a highly visible solar generator. This would make a significant statement at the main entrance to the Earth Centre emphasising the importance of on-site electricity generation using photovoltaics as a way of reducing dependency on fossil fuels and therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Solar Canopy, which boasts the biggest array of photovoltaic cells in the UK, connects the restaurant building with the Planet Earth Galleries which are built into the earth. The Solar Canopy is a distorted timber space frame constructed using round wood poles of indigenous softwood with galvanised steel connectors.  The elaborate geometry created by the trapezoidal frame and the almost random supporting posts forms a dynamic contrast with the purity and simplicity of the adjacent building forms.

The canopy is roofed with photovoltaic cells embedded in glass. The cells are spaced 4mm apart with a 60mm space round the edge so that approximately 25% of the daylight striking the canopy will penetrate through it.

The scheme was completed with the benefit of a THERMIE grant from the European Union as well as monies from the Millennium Commission and the European Regional Development Fund.


Selected Awards


2002 RIBA Award: The Earth Centre, South Yorkshire: Arrivals Building and Planet Earth Gallery: Winner

The Earth Centre and Solar Canopy

“Sustainability meets aesthetics and demonstrates it can provide all the elements of good architecture.”
RIBA Award 2002 Judges