Picture your typical highway rest stop: if flooded bathrooms, negligible greenspace, and overpriced fast food for the weary traveler come to mind, you’re not alone.
Enter: the Dunning family. In 2009, the founders of Westmorland Ltd and service area operators ran a competition to develop a rest area that was also a respite from highway grime.
Glenn Howells Architects’ (GHA) entered the winning design, which became four buildings off England’s M5 motorway. Gloucester Services – consisting of a retail facility paired with a petrol station – opened its northbound site in 2014 and the southbound site last year.
The build has since gone on to earn multiple accolades including the RIBA National Award 2016 and – most recently – appearing on the timber industry’s Wood Awards shortlist in the 'Commercial and Leisure' category for an exposed timber roof that will surely have its 4 million annual visitors looking up.
In place of greasy burgers and sad soft serve, Gloucester Services offers unbranded, locally sourced food, most of it prepared onsite. Its commitment to furthering the community includes job training. GHA’s RIBA Awards write-up notes that nearly a third of Gloucester Services employees were previously long term unemployed.
Sustainability highlights include electric car charging stations and landscaping recycled from materials onsite– strategically placed to drown out highway noise. In fact, with a roof covered in wildflowers, the build itself is wont to fade into the Cotswold countryside.
Similarly, you might find yourself forgetting to ask: ‘Are we there yet?’