Harwell Hides

Tags: offices, science and research, timber, new build

  • Client: Harwell Campus
  • Architect: Bell Phillips Architects
  • Photography: Killian O'Sullivan
  • Completion: 2022
  • Size: 125 m²
  • Expertise: Structures, Civils
Harwell Hides - Webb Yates Engineers
Harwell Hides - Webb Yates Engineers

Within the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, a 700 acre science and technology campus, sit a series of ‘hides’ providing breakout space for the surrounding industrial-scale offices, laboratories and workshops. Small and informal, the pavilions offer an escape; each structurally independent pavilion features distinctive geometry and offers a unique and tranquil working environment overlooking the lagoon. The buildings are clad in angled facets of timber cladding and mirrored glass, allowing them to nestle within the landscape. At Harwell, people are working at the cutting edge of science and, for this, creative thinking is fundamental. The cabins are designed to inspire people to do their best work, surrounded by nature. 

Webb Yates Engineers provided the structural and below ground drainage design for the project which, in response to the importance of the site’s natural environment, is designed to make a minimal impact on the land. 

The structures touch the ground very lightly in localised areas, with minimal excavation and earthworks completed to enable the construction. Materially, lightweight timber elements are employed. Structurally insulated panels (SIPs) form wall and roof elements, with softwood and Kerto beams and joists utilised for the floor structure and frame openings. Many of the structural elements were prefabricated off site and assembled on site for an efficient construction programme and low impact on the ecology of the area.

The drainage design takes advantage of its surroundings, with surface water diverted into perimeter swales utilising the natural slope of the ground, and wastewater purified in an onsite plant, before being migrated to the adjacent lagoon.


  1. RIBA South Awards 2024, shortlisted, 2 2024