Holder Mathias behind newly opened Center Parcs site in Woburn endorsed by Prime Minister

13 Jun 2014

Holder Mathias is the architect and lead designer behind the £95 million centre buildings at the heart of the latest £250 million Center Parcs Woburn Forest, which opened its doors for the first time on the weekend.

Guests at the fifth Center Parcs Village will experience first-hand the design work of the Cardiff-based firm, who have said that it’s the “most complex and sophisticated” brief that they have worked to in its 45 year history.

Set in 362 acres of forest in Bedfordshire, Center Parcs Woburn Forest is home to the leisure company’s largest ‘Subtropical Swimming Paradise’, along with a state-of-the-art Aqua Sana spa, 625 lodges, a 75-bed hotel, six spa suites together with 13 restaurants, shops and more than 100 leisure activities.

Its creation has been backed by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who recognised Center Parcs’ appeal to families and its wider economic importance, as it’s set to inject approximately £20 million per annum into the local and regional economy.

Holder Mathias has been working with Center Parcs on the Woburn Forest Village for the past decade, and was instrumental in helping to secure planning consent, which was granted in 2007 after a public inquiry.

Peter Gamble, senior partner at Holder Mathias, said: “It has been an amazing journey to be involved with one of the largest and most exciting development projects of its kind in the UK over the past 10 years.

“A Center Parcs Village is a complex affair, and the centre buildings are its most operationally sophisticated and intensively serviced part.

“We faced many design challenges from the outset, not least balancing the scale of volume required for the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and the sports hall as the main attractions of the village, with the need to ensure they were not visible outside of the site or overbearing in scale to village guests.

“We achieved our objective of ensuring they were concealed within the site by creating three dimensional ‘envelopes’, whose height was dictated by the height of the adjacent woodland. “The buildings have also been integrated into the landscape, by settling them into the hillside. With the Plaza, the largest of the three buildings, the curvature of the plan prevents the scale of the building being perceived from any single point.”

Holder Mathias has designed the three centre buildings, The Village Square, The Plaza and the Waterfront, which form the core of the Center Parcs experience.

The 16,000m2 Village Square incorporates the 5,200m2 Subtropical Swimming Paradise, an impressive shell-like structure, which sits beneath the treeline and is one of the most popular elements of a Center Parcs break. It features a wave pool, lazy river, wild water rapids and three water rides that are new to Woburn Forest: Tornado, Twister and Typhoon.  Its design represents a radical departure for Center Parcs and has allowed Woburn Forest to create its own distinctive identity.

The Village Square itself is a gently winding path that features shops and restaurants on either side.  Each of the restaurants has been carefully designed to create different places where guests can enjoy the distant views into the forest and sunny terraces.

The 24,500m2 Plaza is incorporates the sports hall and associated outdoor courts, supermarket, hotel, restaurant and conference facilities. It also features the Aqua Sana spa, the most innovative spa that Center Parcs has ever created, featuring six unique spas to journey through, each one with a multi-sensory experience room, two of which are the first of their kind in the world.

The Waterfront is the smallest of the three centre buildings and sits adjacent to the lake edge. It consists of a Pancake House restaurant, together with the beach kiosk which is the control point for lake-based activity.

Peter Gamble continued: “Sustainability has been a critical issue throughout and the central buildings have been designed to meet strict criteria, with close control exercised over the use of materials, waste, the use of renewable energy sources and thermal performance. The Plaza also has one of the largest green roofs in the UK at 8,500m2.

“We purposefully chose tactile, warm materials throughout the centre buildings, such as timber and stone, which people respond instinctively to, so as to contribute to their sense of wellbeing.

“Overall, the buildings at the heart of Center Parcs Woburn Forest have been designed to create a unique experience and to delight, intrigue and surprise the 350,000 guests who are due to visit in the first year alone.

“The expertise for this project is based in our studio in Cardiff, and the whole project has been delivered between our London and Cardiff studios.

“It’s really has been incredible to deliver such an exciting vision from the start, and to work closely with Center Parcs to take the highly successful and much-loved holiday concept into the 21st century.”

Martin Dalby, CEO of Center Parcs said: “After years of hard work, dedication and passion, we’re thrilled that Woburn Forest is opening and we’re ready to welcome our first guests. There is already a real buzz around the new Village and we hope that families are as excited as we are at the prospect of a short break at Woburn Forest.

“Everything about the new Village is the result of a culmination of 27 years of experience and lots of guest research into what modern families are looking for.

“It has been a delight working with the Holder Mathias team, who have been truly professional in their approach from start to finish, and whose long term vision has been first-class, enabling us to create a fantastic legacy that will give our guests enjoyment for many years to come.”

Center Parcs Woburn Forest complements the four existing sites at Whinfell Forest (Cumbria), Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire), Elveden Forest (Suffolk) and Longleat Forest (Wiltshire).

Holder Mathias has previously worked on two other Center Parcs projects. In partnership with Water Technologies International, Inc and SDC Builders Ltd, the practice completed a world-first at Center Parcs Elveden Forest with the design of its new £4m water ride, Tropical Cyclone™, which opened late 2012.

At its 400 acre Whinfell Forest site in Penrith, Cumbria, Holder Mathias developed the concept, master planned the development and led the design team through the £125 million project, which received the Department of Environment Major Project of the Year Award when it opened in the late nineties.

Holder Mathias has carved out a niche in leisure and sports design. Other notable projects the practice has delivered include the £18 million Bletchley Leisure Centre, awarded Best BREEAM Bespoke Building 2010 and the critically-acclaimed luxury spa at Lucknam Park Hotel in Wiltshire.