This website is the brief for an open ideas competition for the Great Fen Visitor Centre in Cambridgeshire. The visitor centre will be an integral and essential part of an evolving fenland landscape, stimulating exploration, and serving its visitors to the highest standards.

Great Fen is an internationally acclaimed vision, one of sweeping scale and ambition. Over the next 50 - 100 years, more than 3,000ha of largely arable land will be transformed into a mosaic of habitat: open water, lakes, ponds and ditches; reedbed; fen, bog and marsh; wet grassland; dry grassland; woodland and scrub. Biodiversity will be protected and encouraged, struggling species will repopulate the new landscape.

Ninety-nine percent of the great East Anglian wetland has been lost over time. Rare and endangered species of fenland plants and animals are now compressed into tiny refuge areas, precious fragments of wild fen. Two of these, Holme Fen National Nature Reserve and Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve are central to the Great Fen Vision which seeks to create around and between them a restored fenland landscape, a Living Landscape for wildlife and people.

Much of the Great Fen will be publicly accessible, providing space, freedom and opportunity for enjoyment of the countryside and wildlife to local and neighbouring populations, and to visitors from further afield. Landscape scale interventions, and integrated actions to enhance social and economic wellbeing of resident communities will ensure that the needs of both wildlife and people are met harmoniously, creating a lasting and sustainable resource for present and future generations. Information on the Great Fen can be found at

The competition is open to design teams based in Europe and the UK and should include the services of an architect, landscape architect and a quantity surveyor. The design team may be led by a fully qualified practising registered architect or landscape architect. The competition is being promoted by the Great Fen - a partnership which comprises the Environment Agency, Huntingdonshire District Council, Middle Level Commissioners, Natural England and The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.

The competition will be organised in two stages:

Stage 1: Submission of concept designs which will be assessed anonymously;
Stage 2: A maximum of 4 designs will be identified, with anonymity lifted and the authors of the schemes invited to refine their ideas and present their proposals to a judging panel at a clarification interview.

The winning scheme will need to successfully interpret the partnership′s vision to produce an exceptional building [together with associated infrastructure and immediate landscape works] that is in tune with the project′s overall ambitions, the qualities of the site, the fenland landscape and to be an exemplar of sustainability both in construction and use. The successful applicant will therefore need to demonstrate exceptional flair, imagination and vision to create an outstanding building for an, as yet unformed, but evolving landscape.

Applicants should note that the competition is initially a call for design ideas only. Progression of the winning scheme will be dependent upon successful fund-raising activities together with attainment of necessary planning and statutory permissions. The winning design proposal will be used to help support fund-raising activities and will also need to be capable of attracting potential donors to the project. It is anticipated that a period of time will therefore elapse between identification of the winner and progression of the scheme. Applicants should note that the partnership has identified a maximum design fee ceiling of £160,000 [+VAT] for the following services relating to the project:

  1. The fee element [which represents approximately 8% of the anticipated value of the future building contract] is to include full architectural services, quantity surveying and landscape design.
  2. The £160,000 design fee should be included in the projects costs, which is expected to be in the region of £2m [+VAT]. The form of construction procurement for the Visitor Centre is yet to be determined. The Great Fen Project Partners may choose to transfer responsibility for development of the Visitor Centre design to an incumbent contractor at an appropriate RIBA Work Stage, and the team may work to the Great Fen Project Partners or the contractor, depending on the circumstances. Should this option be taken up by the Great Fen Project Partners, it will become a contractural condition with the winners of the competition. Participation in the competition will be on this basis.
  3. The winning architect may, in due course, be invited to support the procurement of the building firm and the eventual building contract. To this end, Short-listed applicants are required to submit an estimate of the cost to provide this support as part of the Stage 2 submission material.
RIBA Competitions logo Great Fen Logo

Competition Management

The Competition is being managed and administered by RIBA Competitions. All queries relating to the competition should be directed to:
RIBA Competitions, The Studio, 32 The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7EW
Tel: ++44 (0) 113 203 1490