The project transforms an underused garden into an urban oasis including woodland, grassland, scrub, heath, fen, reedbed, hedgerow, urban British habitats, and wetlands - creating significant new areas of habitat and biodiversity. Flowering plants, fruits, and grasses will create rich habitats of seasonal variety that encourage pollinating insects and bees. This design re-presents the grounds as a living laboratory in the heart of London’s museum quarter in South Kensington.
In 2020 the Natural History Museum declared a planetary emergency and has strategically focused on environmental initiatives to engage the public with issues of climate instability and biodiversity loss. This is reflected in the design which is minimal, low-tech, lean, clean, and green. Passive features minimize the energy demand of the buildings, and rainwater is captured via swales and infiltration basins to irrigate plants and replenish the groundwater aquifer.
The grounds will become a globally relevant urban nature epicenter for research, training, and education, increasing the Museum’s outdoor learning programs by 66%. It will create immersive, educational experiences through geology, planting, and interpretive exhibits, including a geological and botanical timeline telling the story of the evolution of life over 540 million years through to the present day.
Project Status: Under construction since June 2022.
The jury particularly applauded the project’s dedication to repurposing urban spaces, to effectively increase biodiversity and provide new public and recreational areas accessible to all.
Holcim Awards 2023 Jury for Europe
The jury particularly applauded the project’s dedication to repurposing urban spaces, to effectively increase biodiversity and provide new public and recreational areas accessible to all. The project’s educational purpose, along with a holistic and integrated design approach, received high praise: the inclusion of outdoor living galleries not only offers opportunities for learning about and exploring nature, but also adds an engaging element to the design.
The material choice was particularly interesting to the jury, especially the use of materials intentionally sourced from across the United Kingdom, and the reuse of excess site material. This conscious decision showcases a commitment to sustainability and resource management.
The jury found the project to be well documented, indicating a high level of professionalism and attention to detail. Overall, the jury applauded the integration of the built environment with the natural surroundings which creates a cohesive and visually appealing design.