Monday, 8 February 2010

Take the next exit for the green motorway service station

A new motorway service station being designed in the Cotswolds will lead the way environmentally

Amanda Baillieu
The Guardian, Monday 8 February 2010
Motorway services and green design are ­awkward bedfellows. It's not simply the petrol, the ­shopping and the fast food, but ­service stations take up a lot of space. And of course, they're dispiriting to look at.
But the challenge of building new services in the Cotswolds between junctions 11 and 12 of the M5 persuaded the developers to hold a competition. It was won by Glenn Howells, whose Savill Building in Windsor Park was shortlisted for the Stirling prize three years ago.
Designed to "knit" into the landscape so that even the petrol station cannot be seen from the road, it will emit a fifth of the carbon dioxide of normal motor­way services thanks to a kitchen garden, the creation of habitats for wildlife, and the use of ­locally sourced Douglas fir as the ­building material.
The consortium, whose planning application is to be considered by Stroud district council, includes Westmorland, the ­family-run firm behind the much-admired Tebay services in Cumbria, which won Egon Ronay's British Academy of Gastronomes' Grand Prix award last year.
The trouble is, having arrived you might never want to leave. The architect describes it as "a rural oasis", but it's not just the peace and quiet that is so appealing. It's the homemade food, the fresh veg and organic meat that will be sold in the farm shop, and the locally produced art and crafts replacing Marks & Spencer, WH Smith and other brands that will be banned, while profits will be ploughed back into the local community.
Green and foodie credentials aside, it's the design that will put it on the architectural map. The undulating shapes echo the landscape, while the ­timber-clad ­interior looks like the ­business- class lounge of a ­Scandinavian airport, with curvy chairs, low coffee tables and subtle lighting. Bring on the organic apple juice, the carrot cake and the hand-thrown pottery.
Amanda Baillieu is the editor of Building Design.