A multifaith community complex, designed by James Gorst Architects for White Eagle Lodge, was announced as the UK’s best new timber building, having won the Gold Award at the 2023 Wood Awards.
Through a celebration of the natural materiality deeply embedded in the area’s local history, New Temple Complex is forward-looking, yet characterised by peaceful simplicity and serenity.
Open to the public, the building comprises of orthogonal, timber-framed pavilions, connected by a cloistered walkway, while facing onto a central courtyard garden. Within the complex exists a temple, library, chapels, a multi-use community hall, public foyer, and catering kitchen.
Designed to welcome visitors from all faiths and corners of the world, the New Temple Complex takes inspiration from the sixteenth-century Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, featuring a square plan with entrances on each of the cardinal points.
An ancient pathway known as The Shipwright’s Way runs beside the site, passing clay beds and chalk streams, following a Tudor pathway used to transport by timber from ancient oak forests to the shipbuilding city of Portsmouth. The building makes use of each of these materials, including ash from the nearby New Forest.
Between engineered timber frames manufactured offsite, facing clay brickwork set within chalk lime mortar, and reuse of the concrete from the previous building’s foundations, the New Temple Complex is a triumph of sustainable design that evokes quiet contemplation and a spiritual connection to the landscape.
Heating is provided by a ground source heat pump, buried in the landscape and powered from a photovoltaic panel array located on site, while an innovative raised floor slab provides passive cooling to the internal spaces with fresh air supplied by an underground labyrinth ventilation system.
New Temple Complex was built by Beard Construction with joinery from Kingsdown Joinery, and the assistance of Quantity Surveyors Jackson Coles. The wood supplier was English Woodlands Timber, while the structural frame was provided by Pacegrade.
Jim Greaves, principal of Hopkins Architects and lead Buildings judge, said:
“On approach, the New Temple Complex is a beautiful composition of material and colour. It is a remarkable example of great architecture with so many layers, within which timber is used exceptionally well – all with meticulous finishes. The glulam domed roof is effortlessly elegant, while the connection to nature is continually considered.”
The Wood Awards building judges, a team of world-leading professionals led by Jim Greaves of Hopkins Architects, visited all 20 buildings shortlisted in the Wood Awards before deciding the winner, in one of the UK’s most rigorous assessments for any competition.
New Temple Complex beat more than 150 buildings in the UK to claim the Gold Award. It is also the winner of the Education and Public Sector category.
New Temple Complex was not the only winner of the night, with the likes of Spruce House & Studio, The Black & White Building, Westminster Hall Roof & Lantern, The Boathouse, Benenden School, Centenary Hall & Music School, Dragon Flat and Field Station all winning their categories and showcasing the diverse use of timber, from large commercial offices through to intimate private homes.
Among the furniture and product design pieces that won their categories was Serenade by John Makepeace OBE, The Exchange Tables & Chairs by designers Mentsen with The Exchange Erith, and student winner Joanne Grogan (City & Guilds of London Art School) with Rocaille Morphosis – each showing outstanding talent in British design using wood.
David Hopkins, CEO of Timber Development UK (organisers of the Wood Awards) said:
“Congratulations to all the entrants in this year’s Wood Awards, especially the team behind New Temple Complex.
At Timber Development UK, we spend a lot of time campaigning, promoting and educating about the role of timber in decarbonising construction, but there is no substitute for showing such wonderful live examples in practice.
All of the winners and the shortlisted projects show the crème de la crème of British architecture and design. They show what can be achieved in terms of carbon reduction and design, with no need for compromise, when using timber as the main structural material. We hope this year’s entrants will inspire more designers to work with wood as their primary material and look forward to seeing more entries come forward next year.”
You can find out more information about the 2023 winners by visiting www.woodawards.com.
As a not-for-profit competition, the Wood Awards can only happen with collaborative industry sponsorship. A huge thank you for continued support from Carpenters Company, American Hardwood Export Council and Timber Development UK.