Langley Vale

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Surrey, England. 2016

View from the North-East
Landscape Perspective
Site Plan
Ground Floor Plan

Langley Vale Wood sits on the edge of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, within an hour’s drive of over four million people. The site forms part of a valuable landscape of British Military history within the Surrey county boundary, including the Second World War Atlantic Wall training ground on Hankley Common. The site’s identification as England’s First World War Centenary Wood highlights the landscape’s contribution to fighting tyranny and preserving a way of life.

The building is defined by the presence of a robust timber wall and a single, large oak room. The 3m wall provides a secure enclosure within which activities unfold. Hunkered low in the landscape, the top of the wall ducks below the boughs of the surrounding broadleaf trees and maintains the datum of the hedgerows. Carefully located openings provide visitor access and composed views across the landscape. In places the wall thickens and space is hollowed out for offices, a kitchen and toilets. The wall will be constructed of stacked wood of 300mm square sections. As the timber seasons it will shrink and warp to create valuable bat roosts and nesting places for species of small birds, linking the building to the adjacent species rich hedgerows and forming a new relationship between the building and the site.

As visitors move deeper into the building the timber will become more refined in its finish. The exterior wall is rough sawn and will darken or weather silver depending on orientation. The oak room will be planed and finished with lye giving a delicate, pale colouration. The floor of the oak room will be end-grain oak cobbles.  The concrete base of the building will use flint from the surrounding fields as aggregate. Concrete floors will use flint chippings, ground to a terrazzo type finish. The courtyard floors will be of water-bound flint chippings. 

The building is imagined as a product of the land on which it sits and of the circumstances out of which it arises. A building that relates intimately with its environment through its scale and materials and one that responds to its historical and narrative context through its parti and tectonic. Somewhere that will form a valuable new community asset, a home for festivities and everyday events - a place of celebration, reflection and education.

Project start

The Woodland Trust

Michael Lee Architects

Landscape Design
Michael Lee Architects


Michael Lee