Our plans for the gardens
The new Museum gardens will be a fully accessible green space in the heart of London.
They will be somewhere visitors can learn more about the incredible diversity of life on Earth, and our scientists can develop best practices to protect urban nature. They will take you back in time, and help you look to the future.
The developing designs have been shaped by a number of drivers:
1. protecting and increasing the existing wildlife and biodiversity
2. respecting the heritage of the Waterhouse building
3. improving accessibility across the gardens all year round
4. creating a leading, sustainable design
5. providing opportunities to learn about and explore nature.
The east garden
The east garden will tell the story of life on Earth. As visitors enter the garden they are taken on a journey into the deep past and invited to explore the diversity of life as it evolves.
They will learn about the explosion of life in the seas 500 million years ago, see dinosaurs grazing among tree ferns and cycads and track the evolution of our earliest ancestors.
Visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of the evolving life on Earth and become immersed in a landscape that gradually fills with plants, trees, reptiles, birds and mammals (including humans).
By understanding changes that have occurred on our planet in the past and how life responded, we can plan for the future.
Key features include:
- a new ramp from the South Kensington Tube station tunnel that is sensitive to the root protection areas of the London plane trees
- the story of Earth's history along a timeline wall, brought to life with geology and planting
- a new weatherproof cast of the Museum's much-loved dinosaur, Dippy, which will take centre stage in a Jurassic garden filled with tree ferns and cycads
- formal and informal seating among the planting and geology will give visitors the opportunity to rest and immerse themselves in nature
- discovery pathways that provide an exploratory route through the garden among the planting
- geology and fossils to bring Earth's history to life
- a new ramp providing a step-free route from the garden to the main entrance.
The west lawn and Wildlife Garden
The west lawn and Wildlife Garden will become a site for visitors and scientists to identify, monitor and study wildlife. It is a space to explore, reflect and connect with nature.
Panels will highlight the rapid rate at which humans are impacting life on our planet. Visitors will be able to find out about the extraordinary wildlife right on our doorstep that our scientists are studying.
Visitors will discover a living research laboratory, an urban space teeming with life, where they can learn how to gather information about the changing environment.
The design team have worked closely with Museum experts, external partners and independent advisors from the UK conservation sector to meet our commitment to ensuring the best care and conservation of the current habitats now and in the future.
A full ecological assessment has taken place which has been used to inform the construction strategy. A landscape and ecological management plan (LEMP) is being developed.
Key features include:
1. The existing Wildlife Garden where habitats will be retained.
2. Updated paths to provide better access through the garden.
3. A new visitor entrance from Queen's Gate.
4. Raised walkways to protect habitats.
5. A 20% increase in the wetland area area, achieved by reconfiguring the ponds.
6. Existing grassland and woodland habitats.
7. A sunken walkway between the ponds to allow greater accessibility for pond dipping activities.
8. A new pathway from the Darwin Centre to the Wildlife Garden.
9. New areas for seating.
10. New areas of urban grassland to increase biodiversity and capacity for visitors to gather in groups to relax, picnic and play.
The Darwin Centre courtyard
Having journeyed from the very beginning of life on Earth in the east garden through to the present day in the west, the Darwin Centre courtyard will be a space where visitors can reflect on what the future of nature might look like.
Seasonal stories and scientific research beds will provide inspiration on what we can all do to help make towns and cities more resilient, liveable and sustainable for us and nature.
Learning and Activity Centre
The Learning and Activity Centre will combine vital facilities for scientific work, monitoring, learning activities, maintenance and supporting the volunteer community that is key to the upkeep of the gardens.
The current garden facilities are not fit for purpose and do not provide space for the Museums' outdoor education programme. The new building will provide a much-needed classroom space for year-round learning with immediate connection to outdoor learning activities, together with improved staff facilities including a work area, a mess room, garden tool storage and yard space.
The current visibility and accessibility of the Wildlife Garden is also poor and has no welcome area. The new centre will provide a clear and welcoming threshold area to the gardens, communicating the scientific significance and purpose of the Wildlife Garden.
The designs propose a new permanent structure in the east garden, the Garden Building. The proposal is for the Garden Building to have a dual function: as a cafe and function space, and as a support space for planting in the gardens.
The Garden Building has been developed in close collaboration with an independent heritage consultant. It has been carefully designed to work sympathetically with the Grade I listed Waterhouse building and the more modern architectural style of the Palaeontology Building.
Sustainability underpins the design, which incorporates rainwater capture, ground source heat pumps and more to minimise the carbon footprint throughout the lifetime of the building.
Sustainable by design
Creating a sustainable design that works with the landscape is at the heart of the redevelopment. With an ambitious approach to sustainable construction, the project aims to have a positive impact the environment.
We will aim to:
- deliver a project which removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it contributes.
- reduce and limit energy consumption and design energy efficient buildings, using 100% renewable energy during construction and beyond.
- create a zero-waste garden and ensure no waste from the construction of the gardens goes to landfill.
- reduce water consumption and design to minimise water waste.
- source materials responsibly and aim to use 100% certified sustainable materials from the UK. When that's not possible we'll have a strong justification for a material's use.
- care 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.
- improve well-being for staff, volunteers and visitors by designing spaces with well-being in mind, providing spaces within the garden for reflection and relaxation, and ensuring mental health support is available for all.