MArch Architecture – Year 1 – Semester 1/2 – ‘Holkham National Nature Reserve’
Toward the end of semester 1 we were introduced to ‘North Norfolk’ and given a brief overview of its history with an expectation to finding a suitable brief for our up and coming design project in Semester 2. This worked perfectly for me, given not only spending my childhood in Norfolk but also my existing fascination with the counties rich history based around farmland reclaimed from the North sea.
The North Norfolk coast is a perfect example of a wild natural coastline that in several places has undergone historic human intervention, creating unique habitats that now house several species of animals not before native to Norfolk or in some cases even the United Kingdom.
I chose Holkham National Nature Reserve as a perfect example of the disparity found within the North Norfolk landscape and its coastline and decided to pursue my design project in this location. A quote from William Kent discussing his plans for the creation of Holkham hall and its grounds in the early eighteenth century, described my fascination perfectly: “Barely a mile from the chosen Landscape, the North sea represented for my friend not nature tamed, but instead the raw threat of the sublime.”
William Kent originally set out to wrap his chosen parkland and coastal formation to the North in Pine trees, both to add to the splender of a visit to the premises, but also to serve as a blanket protecting the estate from the sea. Kent’s original master plan suggested a four metre grid to planting of all pine trees around the Holkham estate and surrounding bay perimeter.
Whilst the positioning is slightly different and ultimately more dense than his original vision, one can appreciate that given they were planted in the eighteenth century on boggy marshland, by hand, the forest is surprisingly accurate.
Ultimately this human intervention of Pine planting created a boundary, which later attracted and protected the large sand dunes enjoyed by visitors and animals today, informing restrictions still upheld today in terms of aesthetic value and day to day management. They are one of Holkham estates main features which people travel from all over the world to experience and also marvel at the classical British home, still used today in a similar way to which originally intended.
During my various site visits and thorough desktop research, I encountered several rare bird species which had, in the past fifty years become regular to Norfolk’s coastline and in particular Holkham’s shore. I decided in the end to base my Semester 2 project on the protection, education and close preservation of these species with an aspiration to have minimal impact on the landscape and utilise the height / scale of the sand dunes and pine trees effectively.