Saltholme Bird Hide

Child Graddon Lewis, , 2018


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Edmund Sumner     Download Original

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A birdwatching site in Teesside.

In 2017, Child Graddon Lewis won a competition to reimagine an existing hide for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Saltholme is the perfect place for birdwatching, but the RSPB wanted to widen its appeal by transforming one of its most remote hides into a real destination of noteworthy architecture, with elevated views of the site being a key project aspiration.

RSPB, working hand-in-hand with The Teesside Environmental Trust, was fundamental in identifying the potential of the site and establishing design quality as a key project driver. The existing, yet uninspiring, circular breezeblock and steel frame building provided a useful footprint, sound structure and solid concrete base on which to plan something new. The proposal maximised what was there, utilising the existing fabric, punching through the breezeblock walls and connecting the new structure inserted at its core.

The tower structure is made from lightweight, sustainable glulam columns, wrapped with birchwood ply, offering visitors a soft, tactile and natural interior from which to view the birds’ habitat. Soft, natural colours and materials were chosen, left raw as final finishes, and stained the exterior timber black to retain its natural characteristics. As the viewer (human or avian) circles around the building the external cladding lightens and darkens as the light traces along its surface.

The new hide offers visitors an experience that enhances each visit and a reason to return with friends and family. The design had to work hard on limited resources to give something back of value to everyone. This value has been founded in the resourcefulness of the team, simplicity of the design, and in a renewed appreciation of nature for more visitors in the years to come.


  • Begun: Jul 2018
  • Completed: Nov 2018
  • Floor area: 35m2
  • Sector: Sports and leisure
  • Total cost: £149,476
  • Funding: Teesside Environmental Trust (TET)
  • Tender date: Jan 2018
  • Procurement: JCT Minor Works Building Contract 2016