LSI Architects’ visitor centre in Cley in the Norfolk marshes works hard not to be noticed

Not many buildings aspire to invisibility. Especially not ones that function as visitor centres. But at Cley Marshes Nature Reserve on the north Norfolk coast, you could be squinting at the horizon for a while before spotting the single-storey structure that squats beneath a lush, sedum-covered roof.

To make it even less obtrusive in the landscape, the 244m2 building is set one metre into an existing escarpment, yet it commands panoramic views of the marshes through frameless glazing along three sides.

The environmental impact of the £675,000 centre has been minimised too, thanks to the sustainable features incorporated by LSI Architects.

As well as the sedum roof, which encourages butterflies and other insects to nest, these include a wind turbine, a ground-source heat pump and solar thermal collectors.

The domed roof is supported on 22m long, curved spine beams, which rest on splayed columns at either end. This means the timber roof seems to float over the strip windows.

You have to be up close to get the effect, though. From further away, the green-roofed centre simply vanishes into the surrounding marshes.

Project team

Client Norfolk Wildlife Trust 

Architect LSI Architects structural

Engineer Hale Allen Jones 

Services engineer Mott Macdonald 

Quantity surveyor Stratton Castell 

Main contractor H Smith & Sons