MArch Unit 5 have been conducting a group construction project every year since 2010. It represents the unit’s ethos of collaboration and the hands-on approach to constructions and materials. It also provides an alternative platform for teaching and learning architecture, by directly engaging with end users and places where the structures reside.

The Hide is a commission by the local ecology group Citizen Zoo and the community organisation The Community Brain, to design and construct a nature hide in the Moated Manor Nature Reserve in Tolworth. It is an outdoor education venue for local school children, nature conservationists and researchers, to observe and learn about the rich flora and fauna that exists at their doorstep.

The mini design competition was held between the Unit 5 students in 2019-20, based on the brief provided by Citizen Zoo. The chosen design was further developed collectively by the entire unit. A simple stacking of straw bale construction was employed, and the double cylinder form emerged to create multi directional views from within. The structure was prefabricated in the KSA 3D workshop’s big build space in January 2020 and the funding was raised by the students through the University’s KU backer scheme. In the summer of 2021, the on-site works were completed by the Unit 5 cohort from 2020-21, experiencing the site first hand and adapting the design to deal with the building tolerances.

The resulting building embodies the uniqueness of everyone’s hands, from the window cills cobbled together using offcuts, to beautifully crafted bronze cast handles by the students from the representation module, and the decorated external larch boards from children from Our Lady Immaculate Primary School using locally dug clay paint. It also provided a social space for many people to gather and participate in building together. The Hide will form a catalyst to a much more ambitious nature conservation programme by Citizen Zoo.