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The Natural Exhibition a didactic landscape through the ages The Natural History Museum Henry Scott Writtle School of Design Design Dissertation May 2014

hjscott writtle school of design


The Natural Exhibition a didactic landscape through the ages By Henry Scott Student number: 98329894 Course: Landscape Architecture Project: Design Dissertation Lecturers: Steve Terry and Tim Waterman Date: 26th May 2014

Site Context Introduction

Hyde Park

‘Waterhouse’s original conception for the eastern and western grounds was never realised.’ (The Evolution of the

London Eye Buckingham Palace

grounds and their significance. Evans. (2011)

The intention of this design dissertation is to provide an efficient and affective design proposal benefiting the Museum itself, its visitors and the residents and users of the wider urban environment. The intervention provides a design solution for the problem of the grounds of the Natural History Museum, on Cromwell Road, London, no longer being able to satisfy the needs of its contemporary user. The current situation meets neither the needs of the Museum or its contemporary user. Critical analysis of the historic context, site context and programme, help inform design strategies that along with conceptual development are able to create a design proposal that is relevant and competent in providing for its 21st Century visitor. The visitors perception of the museum is initially informed through their transition of the grounds. Their perception is not solely informed by the built environment as Lynch(1960) suggests, but it is only by looking through the lens of the landscape, Waldheim (2002) explains, that we are able to get a true image. The importance of creating a suitable lens for a building this iconic is therfore widely accepted.

Natural History Museum

West London

Royal Albert Hall

Historical Context The relevance of the sites historical context is particularly pertinent in this project. To successfully design within this site the importance of understanding the original intentions of the Architect as well as changes and modifications made over the years is crucial. It is only after in depth research of what changes have affected the form and programme of the grounds that successful design solutions are achieved. The Natural History Museum, which opened in 1881 was designed by the architect, Alfred Waterhouse. The building designed in a German Romanesque style paid little attention to its Victorian Urban context or the local vernacular. (NHM 2013) Initial enquiries and research into the historical development of the grounds revealed a series of proposals made by the architect which never came to fruition.




Original plans for the grounds drawn by Waterhouse illustrate a very geometric landscape and two large Romanesque fountains symmetrically positioned in the East and West respectively. Both the East and West Lawns were connected by a series of pathways representative of the straight lines of the building but according to findings by Montagu Evans Associates (2011), in The Evolution of the Grounds report. These pathways paid little attention to the curvature of the central carriage ramps or those found in the buildings.

Science Museum


From early on it seemed that Waterhouse was unsure of a suitable style of landscape. This is evidenced in his presidential address to RIBA in 1888, when he states he had been recommended two differing styles. The first, to turn to the grand style of the 17th Century and the second, to give a free hand to the picturesque. He goes on to add, that what might be suitable for one building and site may not be suitable for another. (Evans), 2011. This may begin to explain the lack of structure in the grounds.

A series of modifications and building extensions has left the grounds with little legible structure, form or independent programme. It is widely accepted, (Evans, 2011, NHM, 2003.) That the grounds of the building have never been able to compliment its architectural achievement.

Victoria and Albert Museum



Below is an design proposal of the grounds signed by Waterhouse. This shows the clear intention for a formal 17th Century garden. The only existence of this proposal is the two strips of lawn on the East and West side. Source. RIBA. (2014)

Natural History Museum

South Kensignton

Museum Lane

Gloucester Road




The Natural Exhibition The Natural History Museum: The Grounds EXHIBITION ROAD

Site Analysis

Queen’s Gate Entrance to the grounds. This entrance is rarely open. Generally used for maintenance and services to with Wildlife garden.


150 metres

The Wildlife Garden containing a selection of habitats representing Britain’s habitats. Closed for six months a year for important maintenance.

Queens Gate Entrance to the Darwin building. This is generally used by researchers and functions as a trade entrance.

Exhibition Road step free entrance. Currently the only step free access to the Museum. Square laid to lawn. Busy gathering space in the summer. In front of palaeontology building. Hard landscaping is tired, and in poor condition. Planting on Exhibition Road boundary is over grown. Subway Entrance and gated Entrance into the East side of Museum grounds. This Entrance was introduced when the subway connection was installed. This was not part of Waterhouse’s design.

The grounds


Ramps and steps leading in the West side of the grounds. This area is often closed during busy times.

350 metres

Main Museum Entrance and gathering space. Currently not fully accessible due to steps. Gathering space too close to entrance.

Carriage ramp and Cromwell Road Entrance. Currently where coaches stop for school trips.

East lawn in tired condition. Popular area for gathering and location for food stalls.

Museum Zoning

18 Mature Platanus X hispanica surround the boundary of the grounds. These were part of Waterhouse’s original design. These are all protected with a tree preservation order and therefore it would be unlikely they can be removed. They are a key feature in the original design but present problem with redesign. Large areas of shade are produced as a result. Problems are also cause during Autumn with the extremely high volume of leaves that are dropped, especially in the wildlife garden

Lawn in front of Palaeontology building is popular in the summer, yet unused in the winter. It is in a relatively poor condition but the space is used for the pop up ice ring during the Christmas period and other exhibitions. The West lawn serves as an area for displays and entertainment for visitors queueing. It is underused and the West side of the grounds is much quieter than the East. The current pathway configuration does not work successfully with the programme.

The carriage ramps were a central feature in Waterhouse’s design. The curves compliment the architecture, but they make it difficult for movement between the West and East grounds. Access is limited due to steps into the main hall. The area in front of the steps is mainly used for queueing. The hard landscaping is particularly tired here, large areas of puddles accumulate whenever is rains. The area is not fitting of a building of this stature.

The East lawn provides an area where people sit and eat their lunches. There is no particular programme for the space, but functions well as a street level area. It currently works well more out of necessity than successful design.





Darwin Centre



From the beginning


Blue Whale

Attenborough studio Zoology Spirit Research

Fossils from Britain Volcanoes and Eathquakes Image of nature Creey Crawlies Earths Treasury Fishes, Amphibians Minerals and reptiles Natural Forces Treasures Human Biology Earth lab- British Central Hall Geology Fossil Collection

Opportunity through constraint

Grounds are positioned next to a busy and noisy road. To help minimise noise reduction use the levels as a sound barrier and locate activity in lower levels.

Existing London Plane trees create large areas of shading. Seating and recreational areas to position nearer building to avoid this. No large tree planting near the facade of the building.

Site topography represents a spatial design challenge but it creates different levels and areas which can be used for natural sheltering

The London Plane trees obscure views of the Waterhouse building. Creation of seating areas between the trees create strategic framed views of the building as an exhibit itself

The Natural Exhibition A didactic landscape through the ages A multi layered approach.

Due to the complexity of the sites multi layered context, early conceptual exploration focussed on four main themes.

Conceptual sketch on the left depicting the movement through the ages

A journey through the ages of time.

A landscape time-line leading through the grounds depicting different ages. Programmatically complimenting the interior exhibitions, the journey through the ages educates through experience. Clear zoning systems allows easy way-finding and transitions through the spaces. The journey starts in the prehistory zone and leads to the living garden and London Ecology habitat.

Evolved conceptual schematic with thought for spaces.

A new dialogue between ‘the street’ and the Museum.

Waterhouse’s original conceptual sketch designs showed the museum grounds at street level. Perhaps he used a certain amount of artistic licence, but the dialogue never existed but was suggested. (Evans, 2011). Large plane trees and sloped banks form a distinct barrier between the grounds and the street. Exhibition Road’s shared space scheme could be continued down Cromwell Road. Allowing for a linear park approach to the main entrance down Cromwell Road. The approach to the museum is calm with urban clutter.

The New Urban Rain Garden.

Journey through the ages of time Diagram showing the entrance as the datum point for the journey through the ages of time

The natural World.

Its is widely accepted that water is the driver of all nature. This conceptual use of the Natural History Museum water cycle creates a series of rain gardens, ponds, rills and swales to celebrate and educate through the process of rain wter harvesting. The conceptual thinking behind this harnesses the natural biological processes of the natural world to capture filter and retain water run off created by people. In a recent open letter to the Prime Minister, Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institue, explains how important rain water management is in mitigating agaisnt flood risk, and that it is the landscape architects duty to lead by example.


The Natural History Museum water cycle

Diaglogue between museum and street

The natural world.

A celebration of the natural world. A world class collection of rare and endagered species, found within their natural habitats. This concept educates the visitors on habitat and conservation, whilst offering a diverse range of plant and animal species. A range of programmes are created to lead schoolchildren on natural educational trails, and activities such as tree house building, or den making

A parallel story of the Natural World set out as didactic landscape through a series of ages and a unique example of an Urban Rain Garden System.

New urban rain garden

Sketch of a possible approach to the museum via a linear park

Schematic diagram showing the relationship between the street and museum, joing with a linear park.










The Natural Exhibition The learning curve The Development process Programmatic research of the interior zoning system has helped East and the West grounds helps to create a smooth transition. create a compatible legibility within the landscape. The spatial

A key exploration within the process was to make a connection

relationship between zones plays a key role in finding the

on the lower level between the two sides. Transgression between

curved form. The process involved dividing spaces based on

these sides is pivotal as part of the concept as a journey.

their functionality and programme. The nature of the concept of a didactic landscape as well as the linear form of the site, has helped to develop a spatial journey. The curved linear nature of the design is informed by both the transitional movement

The form development within the process has allowed for a

between spaces and the dominating carriage ramps.

dynamic yet playful expression of an educational landscape. The contemporary nature of the forms are intended to act as a

Research of the Architect’s original design proposal for the

modern stamp on an originally pastiche building.

Early conceptual model testing found curved shapes difficult to intergrate with strong geometric shapes with

grounds revealed a very geometrical grid system, which paid little attention to the curves in the built form but focussed more It is important to note that the Grounds were originally designed on creating a 17th Century Formal style garden.

without the Entrance in the East. The needs of the Victorian user were very different to the visitor today. James Corner,

This design is centred around the central carriage ramps and

(2006, cited in Waldheim, 2006) explains this in his Essay

they act as a datum point in the liner form of the design. Whilst titled Terra Fluxus, that for a landscape to function efficiently it symmetry has not been intended, close replication between the is fundamental that it adapts in response to its contemporary context.

Tracing a museum and street dialogue. Both meeting in the middle and the central entrance.

Finding a central datum point joining the curves together

Beginning to join up the spaces.

Joining the curved linear journey to the carriage ramps. A central datum point cuts through on both axis.

Offsetting the curves creates repetion resembling ripples. The lines help to define spaces representing natural forms.

Initial sketch design showing accumulation of process sketches. Both sides of the design meet at a central access point and flow through to one another.

Lack of spatial connection provides little unity to existing site.

Strategic Development



Grounds circulation Museum circulation

Lower Level Street level

A dynamic landscape - Dynamic form assist the visitor experience for easy transition between zones. Clear zones help assist visitor wayfinding

Introducing a ‘museum loop’ to maximise vistor experience and museum revenue. Important for school visitors.

Designing with existing topography creates more space and more enclosed area for cafe/teaching

Entrance strategies at peak times allow for gate closures and entrance is controlled via one point. This allows the visitor to experience the museum loop and finish in the grounds.

At quieter times, the museum is able to be accessed via numerous entrances. This allows the grounds to be experienced as a park.

Opening a civic and public dialogue. Street Level relationship created between the civic and public realm. Continuing the infrastructure from Exhibition Road.

Creating a ramp to lower tier

Digital modelling the entrance

Creating a walk through

The Natural Exhibition A design proposal

Wildlife pond, wetland habitat and woodland habitat and educational trails


Queen’s Gate Entrance. Researchers and trade entrance. Recently designed stepped seating to remain

Meadow land habitat

Disconnetion of downpipes. The rain water is collected, channelled and retained by a series of rills, swales and bioretention zones.


Re-designed Car

Main En

Queen’s Gate Entrance and Exit for public


Super peak Peak Off - peak

Heathland and chalk downland habitat. Sheep grazing

London Ecology habitat

Historical agriculture


Teaching spaces, enclosed exhibition space, nature walks and trails. Habitats representing a selection of habitats of the British Isles. Ponds and swales and native plant species. From pioneering like fo the Pinus sylvestris to broad leaved species such as a Quercus robur

Main Museum Discovery trails Pedestrian

Activity Education reflection discovery

Entertainment social convenience

Ramps to lower level

A view from inside the viewing room of the pioneer forest habitat. A reflective and calm space, that educates about the pioneer species. A cut through of the soil shows the different soil horizons.

The Masterplan The Natural Exhibition is a didactic landscape that takes the visitor on journey through the ages of the Natural World. The concept of rain water harvesting helps

Re-imagined entrance. The existing carriage ramps have been retained. A key feature in Waterhouse’s design, they are reintegrated with a series of large steps ideal for gathering, eating or people watching. The widening of the ramps allow for a greater volume of people queuing in proximity to the entrance. The stepped area can be used by street entertainers to keep the queuing public occupied. Ramps lead the visitor down into the grounds, and this is controlled depending on seasonality


create flowing forms that team together with dynamic shapes to form a playful and educational landscape. The learning curve theory aims to maximise education through experience. Children are encourage to explore and play naturally. A programme of educational activities gives visitors the ability to visit the natural world in an urban environment The design is intended to contrast the original architecture and provide a contemporary layer on a Victorian landscape. The natural world is celebrated through a series of zones that assist way-finding and the visitor experience. Enclosed areas are created to be used as educational spaces, as well as permanent food halls. The programme of the grounds compliments the interior collection and unifies the museum. The large amphitheatre intends to provide space for entertainment such as lectures, and concerts. A new dialogue is opened between the museum and the street by the introduction of a linear park on the upper level approach to the main entrance. The habitats and species of the British Isles are showcased in the Living gardens.




rriage Ramps


Pathways leading under carriage ramps connection East to West


The geology field is a collection of natural stone from around the British Isles.


Cafe’s, shops, enclosed teaching spaces. Geology field representing the geology of the British Isles. Rills and swales collecting rain from disconnected down pipes

Linear park adjacent to Cromwell Road, providing park benches and evergreen planting.

Exhibition Road and Subway Entrance





Entertainment, lectures, concerts. Fossils, Pre historical Plant Species such as Gingko, and tree ferns. Rain Garden and Fountains, celebrating rain water harvesting.

A view from an enclosed space used for as a cafe or teaching space. It looks out onto the geology field, which represents the different natural stones of the British Isles, and can be used for seating.

Front Section Elevation of the museum and grounds highlighting the change in levels throughout the design. .

The Natural Exhibition A design in detail The Pre History Plaza

Feature:Plaza Paving. Marshalls Light Beige Granite Paving Fine Picked. Dimensions: 800mm x 400mm Directional paving leading to visitor

The detailed area of the design celebrates the start of the journey through the ages as well as a tribute to the driving force of all nature, water. This is the source of the rain water harvesting, and water is collected from the Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road and filtered through a series of rain gardens into swales and fountains then off through the rest of the grounds.

Light Pink Granite Paving Fine Picked. Dimensions: 600mm x 200mm x 50mm. Signalling residual areas

The programme of this zone works closely with the interior of the building. A cafe is located on the North side of the Plaza which is sited with a food hall on the interior. The plaza showcases the ages of prehistory with a collection of fossils, fossilised paving, and a prehistoric planting concept. Living fossils such as Dicksonia antarctica, and Gingko biloba can be found as well as various grasses and ferns. The planting, once established would be fairly low maintenance.

Feature: Granite Sett Swale. Material: :Imperial Flamed Granite Setts. Material. Celebrating the collection of water Feature: Stainless Steel and Glass Baulstrade. Material: Stainless Steel Modular Balustrade System with 25mm glass panelling. Creates a contemporary barrier Feature: Fossilised paving. Limestone. Manufacturer: Kilkenny Irish blue limestone. Dimensions: 800mm x 400mm. Creates intrigue and excitement.

The stepped seating provides a playful landscape as well as restful. Evening events and lectures can be accommodated easily. With its central urban location, this rain garden is the largest of its kind. The curvature of the design results from an exploration of replication of the carriage ramps throughout the design, which leant itself to the form presented.

Feature: Fossilised slabs. Works with the concept and zone, offering paving of interest and different fossil shapes


Sheltered cafe area forms part of the plaza and links with an interior cafe. Series of fossil exhibits around the plaza

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Rills and fountains

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Rills capture and transport water from the street through the rain garden

2 3 4

+ 7.901


6 7






+ 8.70 + 8.70

Large bioretention area retains and disperses rain water.

Subway and Exhibition Road Entrance

Curved linear park approach to the museum entrance. Seating frames key views of the Waterhouse Building. The building becomes an exhibit itself.



Section AA

The Natural Exhibition Celebrating the natural world A planting concept 1 No. Fatsia japonica

Planting takes a leading role in both the function and programme of the site. The planting strategy is both conceptually and functionally informed. The nature of the didactic landscape concept relies heavily on planting for an educational purpose whilst the rain garden relies heavily on the planting for a functional purpose. Each zone uses a range of plants to depict a particular style. From Ancient species of Ferns in the pre history zone to pioneering species in the pioneer forest habitat. The important role they play in the management of rain water is key to the design, and careful selection of species tolerant to different climates and habitats have been selected.

7 No. Arundo donax 1 No. Fatsia japonica 7 No. Arundo donax 1 No. Acrostichum danaeifolium 5 No. Onoclea sensibilis 3 No. Salix purpurea 6 No. Athyrium filix-femina 2 No. Echinacea purpurea 5 No. Athyrium filix-femina 5 No. Osmunda regalis


5 No. Arundo donax


5 No. Fatsia japonica 5 No. Athyrium filix-femina 1 No. Miscanthus sacchariflorus (Maxim.) Hack. 16 No. Echinacea purpurea 5 No. Acrostichum danaeifolium 4 No. Carex comosa 7 No. Athyrium filix-femina 1 No. Miscanthus sacchariflorus (Maxim.) 13 No. Aruno dona


The rain garden system The rain garden system relies on the biological process of plants to channel, filter and retain rain water run off. (Dunnett, 2007) This system is designed to showcase the best practice for water management, in a busy urban plaza environment. The water collected from the street is cleaned using this system of filtration then celebrated with a series of fountains, which help contribute to a hugely playful plaza.

Bioretention facilities Athyrium filix-femina Panicum virgatum Polystichum polyblephaEchinacea purpurea





Athyrium filix-femina


Section AA A side section Elevation showing the East side of the grounds focussing on the level change and rain garden.



The Natural Exhibition Nature as the picturesque A view of the Living Gardens. The View point is at the Queen’s Gate Entrance to the grounds and show the various habitats and colour that nature provides. .

‘‘I have been torn between , on the one hand the formal garden of the seventeenth century, on the other, to

give a free hand to the picturesque.’’ Alfred Waterhouse remarking on the landscape

design of the Natural History Museum, during his presidential address to the RIBA. (1888)

The Natural Exhibition A journey through the ages A view of the prehistory zone of the grounds. The intended contrast between the opposing sides of the grounds is clearly visible. The side are successfully connected through the curved linear forms. .

REFERENCES Corner, J. (2006). Terra Fluxus. In Waldheim, C. (Ed.) (2002) The Landscape Urbanism Reader. New York: Princeton Architectural Press Dunnett, N. & Clayden, A. (2007) Rain Gardens: Managing water sustainably in the garden and designed landscape. London: Timber Press Evans (2011) Evolution of the grounds [www.document] (Accessed 11 May 2014) NHM%20grounds%201%20(2).pdf Lynch, K. (1960). The Image of the City. Harvard university press NHM, (2013) History [www.document] (Accessed 10 November 2013) Evans (2011) Evolution of the grounds [www.document] (Accessed 11 May 2014) NHM%20grounds%201%20(2).pdf

Henry Scott Landscape Architecture Design Dissertation May 2014

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Henry Scott Landscape Architecture Design Dissertation May 2014 07908318921

Design Dissertation BSc Landscape Architecture  
Design Dissertation BSc Landscape Architecture