Grounds concept image

Grounds transformation progresses

The Museum is planning an ambitious transformation of its outdoor spaces, to create the best possible experience for the many people who visit each year.

The proposal means inspiration and learning is the focus from the moment of arrival, making better use of all the space available. 

The existing wildlife garden will be expanded to cover a space three times its current size. The new designs will connect our outdoor spaces, supporting biodiversity, and acknowledging the value of urban green spaces for both wildlife and our own wellbeing.

The proposal echoes the principles in the original Waterhouse building, with extinct species represented in the east and living species in the west. It will create three new outdoor zones:

  • The Square
  • Eastern Grounds
  • Western Grounds

The Square

The corner of Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road is the entrance to the site for many visitors arriving from the Tube. A beautiful square will offer a place to sit, eat and relax while enjoying the surroundings. 

Eastern Grounds

On the east side of the building there will be a geological timeline of how life has changed over the incredibly long history of the Earth.

Overlooked by the extinct creatures depicted in terracotta in the architecture, the area will be landscaped to create a journey back through time, from the origins of life through to the present day.

Western Grounds

Outside the west of the Museum the existing wildlife garden will be expanded to cover a space three times its current size. This dedicated green space will create sustainable new habitats and a place to feel closer to nature in the city.

More than fifty percent of the world population now lives in urbanised areas, giving green spaces an important role in continuing our connection to the natural world. Accessing nature within growing cities is recognised as essential for wellbeing and beneficial for biodiversity.

Museum scientist, Dr Sandra Knapp, said: 'I think that the new design is a very exciting opportunity for the Museum. In addition to vastly improving access to the building, it will be a more engaging introduction to the museum and its work. The new outdoor spaces will introduce our visitors to some of the reasons why biodiversity is so crucial for not only the planet but also for human well-being.'

The project team

Niall McLaughlin Architects, with Kim Wilkie, were selected to transform the Natural History Museum’s outdoor areas through a competition run in autumn 2014.

They have worked with the Museum to create an innovative design that complements the Waterhouse building and Darwin Centre.

Niall McLaughlin will be the Norman R Foster Visiting Professor at Yale University during 2015. Kim Wilkie designed the gardens of the neighbouring Victoria and Albert Museum and worked with Mr McLaughlin on the Oxford Botanic Gardens.

The changes to the outdoor spaces is part of a decade of transformation at the Museum, re-displaying the national collection to challenge the way people think about the natural world now and for the future.


The design is currently going through consultation before being submitted as a planning application. If you would like to comment on the proposals, please email us at

We will host a public display of the designs from 24 to 26 September 2015. The display will be open to the public in the Darwin Centre wing of the Museum. Representatives from the Museum and the design team will be present to answer any questions you may have.

You have the following opportunities to see the display:

• 10.00-16:00 on 24 September

• 12:00-18:00 on 25 September

• 10:00-13:00 on 26 September

We would like to know what you think of the designs, so please come along if you can.

View the grounds transformation programme designs PDF (16.7MB).