Highly Commended in the category of Commercial and Leisure in the 2019 Wood Awards and designed by Morris & Company, Wildernesse Restaurant is a shared dining space for the Wildernesse Estate retirement community in Sevenoaks, Kent. The timber-vaulted, metal-skinned pavilion forms part of Wildernesse House, a contemporary residential scheme also by the architect. The site is within the Wildernesse Conservation Area and is characterised by a rolling landscape, high-quality trees, swathes of woodland and sweeping views, adjacent to a Grade II listed building.
During the 19th century, a conservatory sat to the north-east corner of the Grade II listed mansion. The new restaurant aims to reinstate this pavilion typology, creating an exquisite dining space with the transparency of a traditional glasshouse, and creating a focal point within the estate that responds to both the existing buildings and the surrounding landscape.
The semi-precious nature of the outer metallic skin of the project alludes to the delicacy of a traditional glasshouse, contrasting with the solid masonry plinth that ties the building back to the existing house. Internally, timber vaults and CLT arches sit atop a grid of glulam columns, creating a rhythm of arches that define large glazed openings, and a central elevated lantern housing the open kitchen, creating a space filled with light and expansive views across the estate. The use of minimal repeated elements is a key concept for the construction of the restaurant. Internally, all the timber structure is left exposed.
External dining areas extend from the restaurant, framed by a courtyard to the west, set between the main house and the pavilion, and an orchard to the south, linking the pavilion to the wider landscape. The outer layer of the facade comprises powder-coated aluminium trays framing arched timber openings.
A key company on the project was Carr Grange Joinery Limited. The company installed the vaulted ceilings, exterior timber cladding and feature wall panelling to the café and restaurant area.
The design melds classical forms abstracted from the context with the efficiency of modern methods of construction, resulting in a contemporary and easy to read pavilion within a landscape steeped in heritage, says the architect. Minimal repeated elements are a key construction concept, from the structural components and interior lining, to the modulation of the cladding and envelope. High levels of daylighting are combined with natural ventilation. The latter is employed through the use of openable panels, which reveal perforated metal screens.
Joe Morris, Director of Morris + Company commented:
“The restaurant is conceived as a centre piece to the site vision. It is designed to be clearly distinct from every other element on the site. Through its form, scale, appearance, materiality and detail, the building speaks of a more public programme. [This form] is driven not through a more wilful or painterly idealism, but one more functional, a result of the modularity of the offsite construction approach which the scheme followed. All of the building elements are connected to the landscape, with flush thresholds and large format windows, which continue to enshrine a sense of place.”