Visitor Centre Cafe Frontage View

Northern Roots, Oldham

The Northern Roots project aims to create the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on 160-acres of under-used green space, five minutes from Oldham town centre, Greater Manchester. Developed for and with local communities, the vision for Northern Roots is to create sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits for those communities by developing new facilities and activities, creating jobs and business opportunities, stimulating the local economy and attracting increased visitor numbers, improving the health of the local residents and enhancing the habitat, biodiversity and environmental value of the 160-acre Northern Roots site.

JDDK Architects led the design team to develop outline proposals for the site as well as more detailed proposals for a Visitor Centre, Learning Centre and Bike Hub. The site is within Green Belt so required a sensitive approach and the scheme has now received planning approval.

Community engagement has been at the core of the design development process with Oldham College, Mahdlo Youth zone and local residents all contributing to where the new buildings will be located, what they will look like and what activities will be undertaken there. The team have recently received the Landscape Institute Award for Partnership and Collaboration.

Concept designs for the Visitor Centre have been developed around the community’s preferred theme of “transformation—caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly”.  Our designs for a conical “cocoon” building amongst the trees creates an events and gathering space, the ramped walkways represent the caterpillar, and the circular visitor centre culminates in a celebratory butterfly roof. Natural materials with low embodied energy are included in the designs throughout.

The site for the Learning Centre is wooded and the community expressed a preference for a journey through the woods, leading to treehouse-like structures amongst the trees. The Learning Centre buildings are designed so that they can be delivered in phases and be used individually or as a group for wider activities.