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Sir Harold Hillier Gardens Visitor and Education Centre

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The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey has one of the greatest collections of hardy trees and shrubs in the world. It is an important centre for education and conservation, enjoyed by some 90,000 visitors a year.

HCC Property Services was asked to design a Visitor and Education Centre. The brief for the project was to provide new facilities for exhibitions and educational activities, and to improve accessibility to the Gardens. The project was unique, aiming for increased visitor numbers, but also requiring a design sensitive to the expansion and development of the garden itself.

From these objectives, we created a detailed master plan that informed the planning of the changes to the gardens and visitor centre, and also lays a framework for future developments.

The new building includes an education centre, shop, restaurant and exhibition space. The plan also included redesigning the access, parking and circulation routes within the garden itself.

Iroko timber louvres reduce solar gain, and modern glazing increases insulation levels. Under floor heating and condensing boilers have been included to reduce energy consumption. Local bricks and stone add to the sustainable credentials.

The building succeeds in achieving the aims of the brief; extending facilities, providing better access for all age groups and enables increased visitor numbers. It also provides a facility which gives both an interesting, and informative experience of the environment and extends the opportunities for growth and development of this young Arboretum. The centre was formally opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2003.

Key Benefits


Project details

Romsey, Hampshire

Hampshire County Council

Value £3.5 million

Completed 2003

Specialist Contact

Paul Williams

01962 847801


It was judged against the following criteria: Impact; considering its form and materials, Build Quality; including performance, engineering and construction, Functionality; looked at use, access, and space and, Context concentrated on environmental conditions. Against these criteria it was considered "an outstanding public building".

SCALA Civic Building of the Year
Judges, 2004