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The 42 hectare London Wetland Centre is the best urban site in Europe to watch wildlife, an international award winning visitor attraction and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This project will be looking at redesigning some of the structures, objects and communication systems at the Wetlands Centre while focusing on the issues of stainability and environmental concerns. I will be working in collaboration with a group of FdA Interior Design students.

Day one at the wetlands I took a photo diary of what I saw, I documented the atmosphere, smells and sounds. I sat down on the ground and imagined being a duck watching us. I watched the trees for rustling and spotted this bird. If you stand by a tree clicking away you only have to wait a moment before a group forms behind you doing the same.

Spot the difference.


One of the many aspects that caught my attention as I was documenting the site was the amount of signs. In particular the number of them and the differences between them all. Some were obviously newer than others but I thought a simple consistancy of font and colour would improve the site dramatically. I also got lost alot so despite the variety of signs, they were not that useful for navigating around the site.

These are a collection of photographs of an existing naviagtion system. The animal foot steps are placed around the site however they are not consistent and seemed to contribute more towards aesthetics than function.



users and comments

what is missing? what would you change?

“The hides are excellent, much better than a lot of the ones in other centres... oh but they aren’t the right height. I think they were made for short people.” “It gets busy but not uncomfortably, no need for one way traffic!”

“The ponds my favourite...” “We love the playground the best, it’s themed so she is learning as she plays.” “I’d like to see more things like the pond dipping.” “We come once a month.”

“I don’t think there’s conflict between the quiet watchers and the families, we know to avoid parts and it’s a good thing that they are here” “There’s not enough description of the ducks, epsecially the more exotic ones.”

“When the children come in the holidays, it’s time for the wife and I to go and hibernate�

“I think the centre needs to change the signs. Try explaining to a four year old there’s no polar bears, the sign just has one on it because that’s what the birds would be around in their natural habitat but it’s confusing.” “It’s our first time here” “Yeah we’ll probably come back.”

“It’s wildlife, we dont expect to be spoon fed.”

1. Discovery Centre 2. Explore Adventure Area 3. Peacock Tower 4. Visitor’s Centre 5. Observatory 6. ReedBeds 7. Pond Zone 8. Main Lake 9. Grazing Marsh 10. Water’s Edge Cafe

This is a photograph of the model of the Wetlands Centre we created as a group. We feel it is important to visualise where and how our design proposal will effect, compliment and live within the environment.

This is the porportions of the current Headley Hide. The ceiling height is 2850mm. The roof is a dome shape. It’s material and structure allows for insects and plants to live and grow ontop of it.






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analysing group research


Our direction


General and “Hide� specific points - Signage confusion - Interaction - Balance between children and watchers - Size of hide - Window height - Attention span of children - Who are our main users

Sustainability - Renewable energy - Solar power - On site materials

User Accessibility

- Defining the space. - Sperating the users - Interior relevant to the users.

Aesthetics - Natural colour swatches - Materials - Traditional vs. Abstract - Specific to bird hides

Structure - Organic Forms - Simple - Functional - Light (Artificial/Natural) - Sound and hieght

Define space for different users e.g famlies and bird watchers. .

“Object� for children, specifically designed to be interactive.

User Accessibility

“Communication system� to create a network between the hides.

How people with disabilities access all areas of the hide

Aesthetics & Structure

We would like to promote harmony between a man made structure and nature , through our design approach. Our ideal approach is to integrate the building with the surroundings of the Wetland Centre. So that it becomes part of a unified and interrelated composition Approach: - A respect for natural materials - Blend into the surroundings - An honest expression of the function

Sustainability & Materials

The sustainable energy sources as alternative power for our proposal we are concidering are Biomass, Wind, Water, Solar and Geothermal. We want as manu aspects of our design to be as sustainable as possible. Below are the different materials and properties we feel our design should incorporate.

Interactive Materials Static non static Shock Absorbing Materials Touchable Textures Colour Smell

Children Orientated

Installation Impact Durabitity/Weather resistance Adaptation to nature Recycled/ Renewable Waste prevention Local Materials




Reflection / Translucence Light Allowance Safety for birds Camouflage the users

Acoustics - sound absorbing For users and birds Temperature - Winter/Summer

our proposal We want our design direction to create the balance between the two main users of the Wetlands Centre. Our design will appeal to and engage both famlies with children as well as mature bird watchers and solve the issues of conflict between them. We want to create a network between hides to create an interactive community. Aesthetically we are going in the direction of organic shape and form taking our inspiration from our primary research on site from our photographs and sketches. We are aiming to find a balance between functionality and beauty in order to visually satisfy expectations of surroundings and our target audiences. We want the hide to be structurally simple, a honest expression of the function of the building with visual impact and care to not intrude or obstruct the surounding environment.

ideas and development

communication system

It was decided that creating a network between the hides would change the way the public navigate around the significantly. Each hide as well as the observatory and visitors centre would allow the staff and public to communicate about the sightings, in addition to where and when they happen. It would enable the bird watchers to know when and where the sightings occur immediatley therefore giving them the chance to move around the sight to spot them themselfs. From my research I came to the conclusion that the network should be able to be implimented in any design or structure. An interactive interface software would be the most effective. We took inspiration from the website “Twitter� which is already in use by the centre but can only be used by staff and seen by the public with internet access which is problematic in marshland. Therefore having screens and public access and ability to update the site would add a live and exicitng element to the hides.

Creating a network between the hides, the observatory and visitors centre would allow the staff and public to communicate about sightings, take offs and landings etc. It would enable the more experienced as well as first time bird watchers to know when and where the sightings occur immediatley therefore giving them the chance to move around the sight to spot them. It would make it more likely they would see more birds than if they just wandered around the site with no direction. I feel it would be benificial for all the groups of users. It could be an interactive interface software some inspiration from the website “Twitter� which is already in use by the centre but can only be used by staff and seen

by the public with internet access which is problematic in marshland. An interactive map system could be a fun way of showing which areas of the Wetlands Centre certain birds are each day. Inspired by the birds migrational pattern. Each species would have be colour coded and using an interactive whiteboard and key system the user would circle the area in which that particular species was sighted that day. It would be a way of tracking and visualising that could be accessed by all users as well as being visually exciting. I feel the visual aspect of the system and making the user a vital part in the system. The aim with the network would be to provide a system that can be used by all visitors of all ages.

Four main users

School children and Teachers • Engage and educate • Keep larger groups quieter by engaging • Make full use of the site • Encourage return visits outside of school

Families with children • Engage and educate • Guide and infrom • Entertain in areas less aimed at children • Make full use of the site

Intermediate Bird watchers • Provide information at this level • Interaction with others at this level • Simple picture form to memorise • Photographers can share their work

Experienced Bird watchers • Provide less information • Interaction with others at this level • More advanced layout • Photographers can share their work

These “birdbook” profiles are prototypes of a “facebook” imitation application. I want this application to appeal to the older age range that visit the site. I found there to be a gap in the form of information offered that would appeal to children of 12 and up. I think it would engage the user because of it’s familiarity and ease of use. Each species of bird, insect and amphibian that lives and migrates to the wetlands would have a profile that would inform and entertain the user by having the information written from the perspective of that animal and simple and easy to read layout.

These images are stills from the video of the quick prototype of the interface system. It was benficial as a starting point to play with and observe the way in which it would actually work. Simply by drawing out the general idea of each page and then working out the relationships between pages it was easy to see what needed implimented or changed. The video shows the transition from page to page as if you are actually interacting with a touch screen system. From here I could then see what other features needed to be added such as back buttons etc.


It was clear from the comments from the users of the centre that one of the designs had to be aimed at children. The main concern that was voiced was lack of interactive aspects for children around the site as a whole. There are specifically designed areas but nothing that ties it all in or encourages the children to engage in the whole site. This was my starting point for the “object�. So my aim is to create something that will provide both children and their accompaning adult with an interest for all aspects of the site and most importantly make use all the whole site. It should navigate the user around the site as well as engage and inform. Therefore providing entertainment for children in the quieter areas such as hides where there is currently no interactive elements for children that have a short attention span, which is most!

The idea of the “activity scrap book� was developed from an idea I had about having a bird passport inspired by the bird take off and landing times on the wall in the observatory. It would be given to a child when they enter the centre. It would act as a guide through the areas as well an educational activity book. Each area would have puzzles, questions and the animals likely to be found in it on those pages. Once you see a bird, insect etc you colour it in. Facts and stickers would be another aspect I want to incorporate to make it a personalised souvenir in addition to an educational tool. All copies would be produced on recycled paper and using acid free ink. No coloured ink would be use to provide a blank canvas for the user as well as being cost effective.

Mum and her daughter Susie enter the Wetlands Center with their activity book. What’s that? A gold egg! Mark it off in the book!

“Come on mum, I need to find the rest of the eggs and feathers!”

“Hey there’s a gold one in there!”

Mum uses her binoculars to spot birds while Susie finds them in the book. She’s found 5 so far!

“This one looks like a tail feather!”

“There’s still eggs to find over there and we haven’t even gone to the explore park yet!”

“This duck is my favourite! I’ve drawn him

“Who’s that I can see through the grass? He loooks like this one”

and his friends look...”

I believe that these ideas can revive the Wetlands Centre by implementing new and practical ways of interacting with the environment with the navigational and communication elements. The designs will unite and engage the visitors of all ages and encourage them to enjoy the surroundings and the educational experience. The on site materials and solar power source make the designs sustainable which is something that the Wetland’s Centre feels strongly about.  During this project I thought it was important to concentrate on not only creating new design but also working with the aspects already in place at the site. I wanted to end up with two simple design outcomes that could be implimented in any hide or area and used through out the site. I hope that the proposed designs will assist them in realizing their original vision of having nature in an ubran environment. An environment which encourages people of all levels of knowledge and interest to observe, participate and leave the center with memorable experience that will encourage return visits and reccomendations.

“I wanted to end up with two simple design outcomes that could be implimented in any hide design or area and used through out the site.�

developing character profiles Creating a network between the hides changes the way the public navigate around the site. Therefore the public users were my main focus. I created stereo type character profiles based on the people I spoke to on the site in Phase 1. I then storyboarded their user experience of the screens and software determining when, how and why they would use this kind of communication system. The interface now is a simple platform to connect each hide as well as the observatory allowing the staff and public to communicate about the sightings,. It enables the bird watchers to know when and where the sightings occur giving them the chance to spot them themselfs. As well as educate, entertain and provide a digital photo sharing aspect.

After developing the interface for the software in Phase 1 & 2 and with further research and insight into how and why this would be used on site it became obvious a more simple and user friendly lay out would be best suited. I thought it was important to make it cleat that the icons are buttons and for the colour scheme to stay the inkeeping with the wetlands logo. Creating a touch screen keyboard solved the problem of an exterior keyboard in the hide.

These images are prototypes of the touch screen. These were created to visualise the user experience physically and to text height and size. This was done by making a frame out of foamboard, sticking to a white wall and for the purpose of rapid prototyping we projected the software into it. However these images have had the interface photoshoped on because the projection had shadows from our bodies and was not as bright as a real screen would be. This creates a more realistic visual prototype.

I created a scenario for each character profile. in my sketch book This example is of a mother and child’s first visit to the site. They are being guided and informed by the “object” which is the activity scrap book and these elements continues on a digitally interactive platform which is the “communication system” when they use the touch screen in the hide to transfer their recordings of sightings to the database to share.

interior graphics I wanted the activity scrap book and communication software to relate to the interior graphics. I thought that vinyl decals of the line drawings from the book were simple enough not take away from the view, the purpose of being in the hide and the architecture of the interior. Continuing with the theme of user interaction from phase 1 and 2 I decided on having an interactive element on the interior walls as well.

In keeping with the interactive elements in the activity book and software I wanted the interior to reflect this also. There would be small holes at adult and child height where you placed your hand inside to discover for exmaple what a nest feels like inside or what temperature the water in the ducks are in is. Photographis of the model are above and on the next pages.

final prototype Here are photographs of the printed activity scrap book. I printed and bound two copies. One is a blank example and the other has been coloured, stuck and scribbled in. I wanted to have a before and after to show how the book would end up after a day in the hands of a child in the wetlands. I would like to take copies to the wetlands and give them to children to try out and see which parts are more sucessful .

Complete WWT Project  

Collaborative project based at the London Wetlands Centre with sustainability as its main focus. The brief is to redesign objects and commun...