Scouts keen to build Gary’s woodland centre

Gary Dawson is excited. A building he has designed as part of his degree could soon be taking shape in woodland in Derby.

Into the woods

Gary is a third-year student on our BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Venue Design. One of his second-year projects was to design a scout hut/community centre for the 172 Alvaston Derby Scout Group in Hippo Wood, a site operated by the Woodland Trust.

He explains: “The hut had to meet a large list of requirements. It was not easy to design a space that can work well for scouts as well as all the various community groups while respecting and complementing the intended site, as well as the challenges the location poses.

“My scout hut/community centre has been taken by the client to the Woodland Trust, who like the design. It’s very exciting to think that there is a chance that my design will get built.”

A virtual drawing of the woodland hut design

Real projects for real clients

The woodland centre isn’t the only major project has Gary worked on as part of his course. He also redesigned the interior of a large old pub into a combination of restaurant, spa, bar, and office space. With a new contemporary hotel attached.

“The projects we complete have real clients,” Gary explains. “This gives us a chance to work on a variety of diverse needs and requirements. For example, some of the things we have designed are hotels, restaurants, community centres and aircraft hangars/museums. My pub/hotel design was chosen as second best by the client, which I am very proud of.”

The projects start with students being given a detailed brief from the client. This lays out what the client wants and needs as well as details for the intended site. Students then meet the client to ask questions and better understand the brief. They then carry out an analysis to ensure their future ideas would fit the brief and the site. And then they begin generating ideas and concepts.

Gary says:

“The scout hut/community centre project was particularly challenging as it needed to tick quite a few boxes that often conflicted with each other, something my tutor said is the norm. My design included angled walls and high pitches that required me to learn more about different construction methods as well as how to portray them correctly in plans end elevations.”

Outside shot of an old pub

What does the future hold?

Gary came into the course after 20 years in the hair and beauty industry. He was looking for a new challenge. He says: “I have always found architecture and buildings fascinating. Something about the huge scale combined with small details, and the fact that what you’re standing inside came out of somebody’s imagination.”

Now he is looking forward to what’s next. “Working with real clients on real projects is preparing me well for life after my degree,” he says. “Being able to understand the technical aspects and being creative is challenging enough. Trying to interpret what a client wants and then sell them your ideas and designs, now that’s hard.

“This course is great for anyone who is creative, with a vivid imagination. The main projects are all different and so do not get boring. And the support and encouragement offered by the teaching staff has helped me realise I can achieve things far beyond what I thought possible. 

“Now I would like a job that offers the same excitement, challenges, and variety as the course.”