Designed by The Harris Partnership and commissioned by the Bayford Group, the aerofoil-shaped building, sometimes described as a ‘treehouse’, is located in the grounds of an estate that once belonged to aviation pioneer Robert Blackburn – a fact that inspired both the aeronautical theme of the design and the name of the venue.
Like a biplane wing
The 200-square-metre Blackburn Wing is part of a £6 million refurbishment of the estate. The curved wooden beams and tensile cables of the construction reference the biplane wings that Robert Blackburn is credited with creating.
Clad in copper, it is cantilevered 30 metres above the ground, supported on galvanized steel legs and reinforced with steel cross-bracings. Two wooden runways form a connection between the ‘wing’, with its spectacular wrap-around balconies, and the estate grounds.
In addition to copper and wood, glass plays a central role in the design. Glass feature balustrades on the balconies and runways – created by Q-railing – together with floor-to-ceiling curtain walls from Technal allow for stunning unobstructed views of the surrounding woodland.
As a result, users of the building experience a feeling of openness and connection with nature.
For project architect Oliver Clark, it was absolutely paramount that the project’s glazing systems should not only provide uninterrupted views, but also achieve a clean, glass-to-glass appearance that provides a counterpoint to the copper cladding.
The team therefore selected a baluster-free balustrade system. This makes use of glass from local manufacturer AW Glazing, in combination with Q-railing’s MOD 0763 block glass adapter and base plates.
The balustrades had to achieve spans of up to 40 metres, so minute attention to detail was required, ensuring a perfectly vertical installation.
Since its completion in February 2015, the Blackburn Wing has won numerous awards for its high-quality construction as well as its sensitivity to nature and feeling of connection with its surroundings.
In addition to being highly commended in the Project of the Year category at the Constructing Excellence awards, this project received two RIBA (Yorkshire) awards.
Hovering among the trees, the Blackburn Wing’s dynamic form and sensitivity to materials are an architectural inspiration that honours the spirit of aeronautical innovation for which its namesake was famed.