Remembering with quietness and beauty

The UK’s National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) is winner of the Large Visitor Attraction category in the 2018 Visit England Awards for Excellence. Designed by Glenn Howells Architects (GHA), this stunning building is the country’s year-round Centre of Remembrance - a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice and fosters pride in the UK.

Troldtekt National Arboretum
Photo: Rob Parrish Photography

The building comprises a prominent rotunda, housing an immersive film experience, and is a deliberate punctuation of the unifying four metre grid applied throughout. It engages materially with its environment, chiming with the existing structures that define the NMA and harnessing a soft material concept of larch timber and natural stone. In other words, the interiors respond to the architectural language of the new building and the surrounding landscape with a sensitive selection of natural materials, textures and colours.

This includes exposed timber structural elements interspersed and complemented by 1000sqm of Troldtekt wood wool acoustic ceiling panels, grey coloured with a coarse texture. This clever choice means that a perfect and respectful indoor environment is always maintained. It means that the noise of people talking and walking on the hard floors is absorbed and softened, which is vital to create an atmosphere of quiet and remembrance.

The £15.7m Remembrance Centre provides a gateway into the 60-hectare (150 acre) site and is also home to exhibition and interpretation spaces, such as a retail facility, restaurant, café and learning centre. It sits within the National Forest area, with 30,000 maturing trees.

It is also home to over 350 thought-provoking memorials, each with a story to be discovered. The memorials are diverse in nature, rich in symbolism and collectively represent a broad population of society from military associations, charitable organisations, emergency services, fraternity groups and individuals. Each year new memorials are added so the centre is constantly evolving.