Bury St Edmunds: Feilden+Mawson’s waterlilies-inspired design for Great Fen visitor centre is shortlisted

Bury St Edmunds architect Stuart Jones whose team’s design has reached the final five shortlist in a

Bury St Edmunds architect Stuart Jones whose teams design has reached the final five shortlist in a Europe-wide competition to design a £2m visitor centre for Cambridgeshires Great Fen project - Credit: Archant

A team of architects has been shortlisted for a prestigious Europe-wide contest to design a £2million visitor centre for Cambridgeshire’s Great Fen restoration project.

The Feilden+Mawson team from Bury St Edmunds came up with a ‘floating’ centre on the fenland landscape, inspired by water lilies. “There were 201 entries and we were thrilled to learn we are among the five teams to be shortlisted for the next stage,” said partner Stuart Jones. The Royal Institute of British Architects is hosting a contest to design a visitor centre which will sit at the heart of the fen.

“It’s a delightful concept and it is good news that F+M has been shortlisted,” said Stuart, who lives at Fornham St Martin.

“It highlights what creative talent there is within the firm to produce first-class designs for imaginative schemes.”

F+M’s concept draws influences from the acclaimed Crystal Palace, built in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The F+M entry is a triumph of international co-operation, with designers who work in F+M’s Prague office working under the leadership of partner Pavel Nasadil joining forces with Stuart’s UK-based team to complete the submission.

The Great Fen, one of the largest restoration projects of its type in Europe, is a 50-year plan to create a huge wetland area, recreating a rich and diverse habitat which once covered huge swathes of eastern England.

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The visitor centre will be built off the B660 between Holme and Ramsey St Mary’s, eight miles south-east of Peterborough. It will be the focal point for the Great Fen and its associated community and educational activities.

The Great Fen project aims to bring back to life the ecology of an area, rich in plant bird and animal life, which once dominated the landscape. A huge 99% of the fen wetlands disappeared as the land was drained to make way for farmland.

Under the multi-agency project, agricultural land within a 14-square mile area is being bought and will gradually be converted back to extensive wetlands.

As well as restoring a haven rich in habitats for fen wildlife, the Great Fen will create a green space, opening new opportunities for recreation, education and business.

Stuart Jones is looking forward to presenting F+M’s plans to the judging panel in late April.