Tophill Low Bird Hide Shortlisted for RIBA Yorkshire Awards 2018

Yorkshire Water operates a large reservoir and nature reserve which attracts significant numbers of migratory birds.  The reservoir and surrounding reserve are recognised as a SSSI, Site of Special Scientific Interest. Yorkshire Water were keen to improve the visitor experience and broaden visitor diversity by providing a new reception Bird Hide as a centre piece to the reserve offering spectacular views over the main reservoir and opportunities for interpretation and education.


The hide combines classroom facilities, overlooking the new dipping pond, a public viewing gallery with large picture windows to view the extensive reservoir and a twenty-four hour twitcher’s hide for the dedicated bird watchers wanting to catch migratory birds on their last stop in the country before departing to warmer climes.

The building provides separation between different user groups, and delivers drama to accentuate the experience to be had of the location and setting.  The building has been considered in its context, establishing an articulated landscape approach to provide level access to the upper level viewing gallery and a new pond area as a focus for the ground level education suite.

Working with the reserve manager and volunteers a new landscape setting has been created.  Excavation established the new dipping ponds and controlled the potential flood risk. The removed earth was used to shield the car park area and create sloping access through the trees up to an elevated terrace and the reception hide which is at the same level as the reservoir.

Working with the team on site to articulate the landscape has maximised the impact of the building for it £500k budget. The steel frame building is articulated as two interlocking volumes, the upper timber clad volume floats with a dramatic cantilever over the cementitious base which is embedded into the landscape. 


Regional Small Project of the Year (£500K or less)  

The “Hide” sits as the centre piece of a site of special scientific interest, combining bold design moves, ambitious structural cantilevers and careful material selection. Inclusive access is provided through the creation of new natural habitats, dipping ponds and extensive landscaping. Diverse audiences are celebrated not just accommodated. The project makes an impact by resonating with its context and providing a focus on the surrounding landscape.

The project was developed by listening to and understanding the clients’ objectives, while translating their objectives and business proposition into spatial opportunities of participation. A key challenge was to provide appropriate separation between different user groups, dedicated bird watchers, families, the disabled and school parties whilst ensuring that all users benefited from a dramatic accentuated experience enhancing the location and setting. The result was a building which addresses all aspects of the site and provides an authentic mix of experiences.