Timber Awards 2018 – Hawkhead Centre for War Blinded

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The Best Use of Timber Awards 2018 exhibition showcases the winner and shortlisted entries to the annual RIAS Awards schemeForestry Commission Scotland and Wood for Good combined to sponsor this award. The exhibition, curated by Architecture and Design Scotland, will run at The Lighthouse in Glasgow and runs from 14th January 2019 till the 5th April 2019.

The Award is aimed at encouraging innovative and creative use of timber in new buildings in Scotland. The exhibition features the winning and shortlisted projects, demonstrated through photography and models.

The Hawkhead Centre for Scottish War Blinded – shortlisted

Designed by Page Park Architects, the Hawkhead Centre in Paisley, Renfrewshire, is an activity and support facility for Scottish War Blinded, a charitable organisation that provides free support to ex-service men and women who have lost their sight during or after military service.

Timber is the predominant cladding, and most prominent internal material, used in the Hawkhead Centre. Timber was also used internally as a key part of the visual contrast strategy – with Dark Walnut used for handrails; door frames and furniture and lighter rimbers such as maple veneers for doors.

The Building User

We spoke to William Alexander Montgomerie, member of Scottish War Blinded. Mr Montgomerie attends the Centre once a week.

How often and why do you use the building?

My first contact with Scottish War Blinded was through John Kerr of the outreach service. It was John who recognised the loneliness that I experience and told me about the Hawkhead Centre. I needed something to put the spark back in my life. The loneliness is still there but I have something to look forward to. The Centre makes me feel that I’m coming home once a week and gives me a new lease of life.

On first sight, the building looks like a spaceship that has landed amongst the trees, that first glimpse you catch as you come along the main road. On closer inspection you see that the building is made for the surroundings, reflecting the use of timber. The old Gatehouse at the exit also adds to the interest, the old, the new and the trees all intertwined and connected with the use of natural materials. This is the future.

What is your favourite part of the building and why?

I love all the building. It feels welcoming from the minute you come to reception all the way down to the main area, the Hub.

The most important part of the building is the Hub. It’s like a roundabout! All the members and staff come together there and then disappear in separate directions to their activities. When you sit in the Hub your eyes are drawn to the outside. The outside comes in and the inside goes out, it’s seamless, and the two complement each other.

How has your life changed from using this building?

It gets me out. If I’m down, one day amongst friends and staff at the Centre can make a difference to how I feel. The staff not only look after our well-being, they are also interested in our well-being. The staff team have been selected well with each member of staff selected for their own qualities. Procedures run smoothly with discipline but not as we know it in the military, like a well-oiled mechanism of a clock.

Every season of the year is visible from the building and is reflected by the activities on offer; Christmas, BBQs etc. The building makes me feel homely, comfortable and safe. This feeling of being safe extends to my home as the Centre Officers and Outreach workers cater for well-being out with the Centre too.

I have learnt new skills, such as archery. I have met new people and made new friends whilst taking part in activities. I have participated in outings. All that is helping me to keep active in mind and body and got me thinking about my time there. I like that there is no age distinction at the Centre and I have learnt a great deal from others, sometimes others that are a lot older than me. We support each other here, the building and the environment encourage that behaviour between the members.

The staff and the building give you a happy feeling altogether, this feeling extends out with once you go home. A feeling of worth, I’m not swept under the carpet and I’m part of something. It’s recognition.

The Client

We also spoke to George Notman, Head of Estates and Buildings, Project Manager for Scottish War Blinded, about the project.

Why timber?

It is a fitting material in the woodland surroundings.

What was your favourite part of the project process?

Watching the design develop into the magnificent building we now have.

What is your favourite aspect of the finished project?

The timber ceilings.

Is there any advice you could pass on to other groups?

Ensure the architect is familiar with the use of timber as a major element of the building.

Can you say something about the commissioning/procurement process?

Work was traditionally tendered and we commissioned an architect who had already designed a similar type building for us.

The Best Use of Timber Awards 2018 Exhibition runs from January – March 2019 at The Lighthouse, Glasgow.

Image (detail) Keith Hunter

You can download our case study on the Hawkhead Centre here

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