The Urban Nature Project: communities acting for local wildlife
The Museum is transforming its five acre site into a biologically diverse, accessible and welcoming green space in the heart of London which will inspire people to care about the natural world.
In the eastern grounds, visitors will be able to meander through dynamic new open air galleries exploring the story of life on Earth.
The western grounds will explore changing habitats and our dependency on the natural world for a sustainable future. They will include an expanded wildlife garden that will support a range of native plants and animals, as well as a learning and activity complex.
A programme of activities co-created with wildlife and conservation partners will reconnect people to the UK's urban natural heritage and help inspire the next generation of naturalists.
The new vision
In keeping with the Museum's values, the design team will re-use features and recycle materials, ensuring that sustainability is woven into the very fabric of the scheme.
The redevelopment aims to:
- Champion and help protect urban wildlife across the UK. We will create diverse habitat gardens to support a range of plants and animals. These spaces will also develop a model for best practice in the research, monitoring and management of urban biodiversity. The biodiversity monitoring, training and citizen science activities enabled by these new spaces will also be replicated at sites across the UK.
- Turn our grounds into dynamic new outdoor galleries with new interpretation and activities showcasing the Museum's collections and scientific research.
- Transform the visitor experience with universal step-free access across the site and a new layout that will ensure all of the grounds are available to enjoy all year round.
- Increase digital connectivity and reach new audiences through new digital content and resources for exploring the natural world.
We will take visitors on a journey through time, telling the story of life on Earth, including how it has evolved in the past and is continuing to change today.
Step-free access will take visitors from the pedestrian subway through into our vision of a prehistoric landscape including Jurassic planting, fossil trees, volcanic rocks and a life-size Diplodocus statue.
The eastern grounds will become a green civic space that is designed to allow pop-up exhibitions and activities.
Urban wildlife will be better supported across the whole site, and the western grounds will contain expanded areas of ecologically-important native UK habitats, including broad-leaved woodland, neutral grassland, calcareous grassland, lowland heath, mixed species hedgerow, wet fen and marginal pond vegetation, and a large pond.
There will be three activity and learning spaces in the western grounds, as well as demonstration beds and a new low-carbon learning and activity complex which will host groups, learning programmes and our volunteers. These developments will also extend the work of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, bringing biodiversity projects out into the grounds and engaging more visitors with their work.
The western grounds will connect to a new entrance from Queen's Gate, which will also be connected to Gloucester Road underground station while South Kensington underground station is upgraded.
Progress on the project
The first phase of the redesign was completed in spring 2018. It saw changes to the Museum's main entrance, including:
- A redesigned ramp which has enabled step-free access through the front doors for the first time in the Museum’s history.
- An extensive terracotta review to assess historic and environmental damage and discolouration to the front façade. Refurbishment of the terracotta to restore the original architecture details of louvered openings.
- A restoration of the railing outside the main entrance, repainted in their original red and gold colours.
- Two botanical displays showcasing the native plants of the Macaronesian region (the islands of the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores in the North Atlantic). The displays reflect the Museum's connections to the plants of the Atlantic Islands, and its support for rare and endangered species. They were funded by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.
'We are prioritising nature, recognising the value of urban green spaces for both wildlife and human wellbeing.
'By creating an inspirational outdoor experience for all to enjoy, the living natural world becomes an integral part of visiting the Museum for more than five million people a year.'
- Sir Michael Dixon, Museum Director