Pensthorpe in Norfolk is a tourist attraction and conservation charity with an extraordinary and unique collection of landscapes and ecologies. The existing visitor complex – developed incrementally in a fairly ad-hoc manner – was beginning to actively detract from the experience of visiting the site demanding a stronger and more confident visitor infrastructure allowing a greater sense of ease and a greater experience of different things happening across the year – particularly as a means of attracting families.
5th Studio’s proposal in this shortlisted competition took the idea of an estate – including the rediscovery of the village of Pensthorpe as an integral part of this estate – as a powerful and easily understood organising concept able to contain numerous attractors without undermining the sense of the importance or quality of each component of the visitor offer.
Selective, cost-effective adaptation and augmentation of the existing visitor hub and a new entrance plein – a publicly accessible ‘fourth garden’ which would host outdoor plant sales, markets, a shop and the entrance to the restaurant and paying visitor attraction – was planned to transform the hub into a legible and generous forecourt, a kind of village square and a point of orientation for the whole estate.
A weather tower at the moment of entry into the paying visitor attraction creates a belvedere, from where people can appreciate and plan their access to the wider estate landscape. A new covered walkway and café elevation, along with the conversion and re-inhabitation of the ruins of three cottages, structures an introduction to each of a series of itineraries throughout the broader landscape – relating to adventure, horticulture and wildlife – catering for all ages and interests.