A view of the proposed west lawn, with spaces for relaxation and play.

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Our response to your feedback

We wanted to know what you think of our plans for the gardens. Find out more about how we've responded to your feedback.

In April 2020 we ran an online survey to gather feedback about the proposed plans for transforming our gardens into a welcoming, accessible and biodiverse green space in the heart of London.

Thank you for your support

1,046 respondents began the online feedback survey with 776 completing it. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to let us know your thoughts, your feedback has been invaluable.

  • The  majority (96%) of respondents support the Urban Nature Project.
  •  Of this, 90% strongly support the project.

What did people like best about the proposed designs?

  • That they make better use of the Museum's outdoor spaces.
  • The overarching story of a changing planet, from the beginning of life on Earth to the future of nature in our cities.
  • How they will provide more opportunities for people to experience nature.
  • The increased opportunities for biodiversity to thrive.
  • The return of Dippy and the Jurassic garden.
  • The increased accessibility across the gardens.

What would you like us to change?

Increase the amount of seating available

You were concerned that the new designs would mean a reduction in seating. In response we have increased seating provision across the gardens. We've made sure that there is a variety of seating available for every age and need, and created opportunities for people to gather in groups or seek out quieter spaces for solitary contemplation. 

The designs for the west lawn before our survey, top. The new designs for the west lawn with improved seating areas, bottom.

The designs for the west lawn before our survey, top. The new designs for the west lawn with improved seating areas, bottom.

 

Provide space for people to picnic and for children to let off steam

The new east garden with its immersive planting does remove the large green space currently used for picnics. We want people to be able to play and picnic in our gardens, so here's what we've done in response:

  1. In the east garden there are places among the planting where people will be able to picnic.
  2. In the west garden we're providing open spaces within the grassland habitat.
  3. In the Darwin Centre courtyard we've added in a dedicated picnic area and will be encouraging families to use it as a place to play and explore.
The Darwin Centre courtyard will have dedicated picnic areas.

The Darwin Centre courtyard will include space to run around and areas for picnics

 

New ideas you wanted us to consider  

Can we provide viewpoints which highlight where the best views of the building are?

Yes, we can. Thanks to your suggestions, a series of moments are being designed throughout the gardens to highlight the beautiful flora and fauna of the Waterhouse terracottas, the timeline across the east gardens and views dotted throughout the Wildlife Garden to encourage our visitors to look closely at our building.

Can we show ways that the Museum is being used for design inspiration?

The Museum building has been providing the inspiration for the gardens design from the beginning. As the designs move forward the team will be exploring ways in which they can mimic and play with the famous terracottas and use these as inspiration throughout the gardens. 

A selection of the Museum’s famous terracottas

A selection of the Museum’s famous terracottas

 

Concerns and questions

How will you protect the wildlife and habitats during construction and in the future?

The Museum has committed to a high level of conservation now and in the future. Here's how we're protecting wildlife and habitats:

  1. We've carried out a detailed ecological survey which looks at the different habitats within the gardens and used it to create a translocation strategy for relocating certain habitats within the Wildlife Garden, maximising retention and minimising harm. We are only moving habitats we know can be moved and no habitats will be destroyed.
  2. The construction phase is being planned to minimise impact on the habitats, particularly in the Wildlife Garden. We're working with experts to plan the details and will share them soon.
  3. We are hoping more people will take time to explore the Wildlife Garden. This does put increased strain on the wildlife so raised walkways will deter people from walking on the habitats. The paths are designed in such a way that some can be closed off to aid conservation without impacting the visitor experience.
  4. We're in the process of creating a landscape and ecological management plan (LEMP) outline the approach to habitat enhancement, management and maintenance into the future. We'll share the details of this when it is complete.
The expanded wetland area with access for pond dipping

The expanded wetland area with access for pond dipping

 

How will the gardens be future-proofed?

We have designed the gardens to ensure they can continue to flourish in the future.

A specialist company has worked on a landscape management and maintenance plan, working closely with the Museum's estates and facilities teams, the landscape architects and an external botanical advisor. The detailed plan covers all aspects of ongoing maintenance such as water, waste and plant management and will cover ten years from the opening of the gardens. 

The Wildlife Garden with a view of the Waterhouse building in the background

The Wildlife Garden with a view of the Waterhouse building in the background

 

The impact on the Museum's Grade 1 listed Waterhouse building

From the start of the project the design team immersed themselves in the history of the building. They spent time in the Museum's archives studying Waterhouse's drawings and looked at how the gardens have changed over time. 

The gardens were originally set aside for future expansion of the Museum and as such no coherent design has ever been realised. The east and west gardens developed independently, each side with their own unique character. For the first time the whole of the gardens will be unified under a single design, improving the overall setting for the building.

Working with an independent heritage advisor, we have ensured that the overall setting of the Waterhouse building is enhanced. Here's how:

  1. Though the planting is immersive and dense in areas, we've carefully chosen plants that won’t grow too tall, so views won’t be obstructed.
  2. The roof of our new Garden Building has been designed to match the structure of the Waterhouse building.
  3. The Garden Building is purposefully pulled away from the Waterhouse building to allow for a respectful break between the two structures.
  4. The Garden Building also fills what looks like an unfinished gap underneath the 1970s Palaeontology Building which, will significantly enhance the look and feel of the east garden.
  5. The key themes of the building and the Museum are used throughout the design to further tie the inside, building and gardens together. The east garden looks at changes on our planet in the past and the west focuses on the present and future. This reflects the Waterhouse architecture.
  6. There will also be opportunities to appreciate the Waterhouse building, with new viewpoints and walkways allowing visitors to get closer to the outside of the building than ever before. 
An archive, black and white drawing of the Waterhouse building.

This is the first time that the gardens will have a cohesive design, echoing the themes inside the Waterhouse building

 

How sustainable will the project be?

We've set ourselves an ambitious target for the project. Not content with net zero, this project goes a step further and aims to have a positive impact on the environment, by:

  1. delivering a project which removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it contributes
  2. reducing and limiting energy consumption and designing energy efficient buildings, using 100% renewable energy during construction and beyond
  3. creating a zero-waste garden and ensure no waste from the construction of the gardens goes to landfill
  4. reducing water consumption and designing to minimise water waste
  5. sourcing materials responsibly and aiming to use 100% certified sustainable materials from the UK, and when that's not possible we'll have a strong justification for a material's use
  6. caring for biodiversity across the garden and elsewhere. We'll grow the plants coming into the garden in the UK as much as possible. Areas for nature to thrive in the garden will be increased.
  7. installing rainwater capture to be used as part of the irrigation system for the new planting
  8. designing two new buildings (Garden Building and Learning and Activity Centre) that exceed present day best practice for sustainability
 The Learning and Activity Centre

The Learning and Activity Centre

 

How will the gardens support all access needs?

One of the core drivers of the design has been to provide year-round access to the whole of the gardens. The design team are working closely with Museum staff and external experts to ensure that the design proposals are fully inclusive and fit for purpose as a public facility.

Pedestrian routes, pathways, level changes, material choices, lighting, wayfinding, furniture, building design and interpretation have all been carefully considered to ensure that all elements of the urban landscape are welcoming to all and can be enjoyed fully, safely, confidently and with ease by all, regardless of ability, impairment, learning preferences or cultural background.

A ramp from the South Kensington tube tunnel will provide a new step-free route into the Museum and new pathways across the garden will improve accessibility.

A ramp from the South Kensington tube tunnel will provide a new step-free route into the Museum and new paths across the garden will improve accessibility

 

The removal of the Ice Rink and other temporary exhibitions

Many people have enjoyed the Ice Rink and other temporary outdoor exhibitions like Sensational Butterflies over the years, but the new designs cannot accommodate these in the future. There are three key reasons for this:

  1. To recreate the incredible, immersive landscapes of the past we need a substantial amount of planting. Many of these plants will take a number of years to establish and cannot be removed each year, not least because it does not align with the environmental goals of the project.
  2. The introduction of a new cafe will provide a permanent, year-round facility for our visitors to purchase food and drinks in the garden, with an indoor and outdoor seating option. Additionally, the area under the Palaeontology tower will be used for daytime and evening private hire events, bringing in additional vital funding for the Museum.
  3. A new permanent building, the Garden Building, will significantly enhance the area underneath the Palaeontology tower all year round, as for much of the year it is an unusable and inaccessible space for visitors. 
The east garden after the removal of the Ice Rink, top, and the proposed designs for the east garden, bottom.

The east garden after the removal of the Ice Rink, top, and the proposed designs for the east garden, bottom.

 

With the full design for the east garden, will there be enough space for visitors on busy days given that it is a primary access route? 

To help inform the designs we carried out a significant amount of work with a visitor flow consultant. This has led to designing primary and secondary routes to help spread out visitors. The flow modelling has informed all path widths and the placement of wayfinding, points of interest and dwell areas.

The flow modelling shows that the new designs can not only accommodate our current numbers of visitors as well as an increase over the coming years, but provide enough space for our visitors to feel immersed in nature and be able to find quiet and secluded spots to sit.

As the designs develop we will continue to test them to ensure a safe, welcoming and comfortable experience for our visitors.