Harlow Climbing Barn

The new building is located on an environmentally sensitive site on the banks of the River Stort in Harlow. It is designed to provide all-weather climbing, abseiling and like activities for managed groups of people, including those with disabilities.

The building comprises a large, open volume approximately 17m x 15.5m in plan, and 13.5m high. There is a mezzanine abseil balcony over part of the space at third-floor level which is accessed via an open-sided external staircase and a lift. The staircase and lift also give access to the first floor of the existing Outdoor Centre building.

The project scope additionally included access improvements to the existing building, and the refurbishment of two gymnasia at first-floor level to provide a cafeteria, equipment hire desk and retail area.

The HOC site was occupied at various times in its history by an engineering foundry, a munitions factory and a meat processing plant. A number of ground contaminants - predominantly asbestos debris, but also toxic metals such as lead and cadmium - were found to be present, necessitating the disposal of excavated material as hazardous contaminated waste. The floor construction of the new building has been designed to respond to the difficult ground conditions.

The elevational treatment combines profiled steel, iroko (to abseil walls) and cedar board cladding in such a way as to break down the building’s overall height and mass into smaller visual elements.

The building utilises passive ventilation through louvres and openable roof lights. As part of the planning process, a specialist Wildlife Protection Plan and Biodiversity Management Programme were produced to ensure mitigation of the building’s impact on local flora and fauna.