Chiltern Hills Gateway
Visitor Centre

Bedfordshire, UK

Set on the summit of the Dunstable Downs this new resource centre is imaginatively placed in the landscape with outstanding views over the Vale of Aylesbury and along the Chiltern Ridge. The project aims to conserve the Dunstable and Whipsnade Downs SSSI, enhance visitor facilities and improve management of the site.


The landscape design and management proposals aim to improve interpretation of the micro and macro qualities of the landscape, provide future educational benefits and maintain species diversity. Careful consideration was given to maintaining the important downland views to and from the visitor centre to enhance interpretation of the wider landscape. The visitor centre is viewed against a backdrop of indigenous trees, planted as a screen copse, routes and parking are partially screened by locally sourced native hedge species.



  • Existing downland wildflowers were placed in temporary habitat reserves and replanted back in the chalkland interpretation garden. Chalk flower and grass seed was sown to re-establish the localised sward.
  • Inclusive design access for the centre and across to the edge of the Down.
  • Timber supplied from the local timber saw mill, supplied with National trust timber form their own woodlands.
  • Locally sourced native trees, grown in a local nursery form local collected tree seed.



  • Conserved turf, topsoil and seed bank all retained for use on the new site.
  • Soil from paths is retained on site to form banks, screen routes and the parked cars. Further banks are used to create outdoor rooms for interpretation and educational work for the Visitor Centre.



Sustainable Building of the Year 2007 Runner Up



Dunstable Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Dunstable & Whipsnade Downs Site of Special Scientific Interest

Adjacent designations: Kensworth Chalk Pit SSSI

Home to rare flowers – Bee Orchid & butterflies such as Marbled White and Chalkhill Blue


Client: Bedfordshire County Council & The National Trust

Architect: Architype

Coe Design