Underground museum approached by a treetop walkway
RIBA National Award winner 2021
RIBA South West & Wessex Award winner 2021
Client of the Year Award, Sustainability Award (sponsored by Michelmersh)
Stonewood Design with Mark Thomas Architects plus Henry Fagan Engineering (Treetop Walk Way) for The Newt in Somerset
Contract value: undisclosed
The architect and design team have worked in full harmony with client, site and brief to deliver The Story of Gardening, which combines a largely subterranean museum building with a treetop walkway.
Designed and fabricated in Cape Town, the walkway is the perfect companion to the museum, providing a fully accessible route from the top of the bluff that borders the historic woodland, through, down and around to the main entrance of the subterranean museum. It also sets up the pared back approach to materials and architectural detail that is seen throughout the project.
The concrete bunker offers the best of both worlds, delivering a robust and stable environment for the exhibits, and providing a suitable degree of drama for visitors courtesy of its extensively glazed facade, which provides expansive and ever-changing views of the woodland beyond.
There is very little fuss with this piece of architecture, which bears the signs of a mature hand from a relatively young practice. The architect has achieved its intention of creating a building with ‘no/minimal impact on the land, the rainfall, the ecology, the biodiversity and the trees’. It is simply beautiful, and takes a deferential position to the surrounding landscape.
The attention to all aspects of sustainable design is exemplary, from its underground positioning and summer shading of deciduous trees for the glazed wall through to specifying locally-made materials such as aggregate of Hadspen stone. The services, which include heat pumps and an inter-seasonal heat store, are all thoroughly integrated. The design’s flexibility should ensure longevity so that the building can be enjoyed by many generations to come.