The Story of Gardening / Stonewood Design
Text description provided by the architects. The Story of Gardening museum is located on the edge of a small woodland area within the wider visitor attraction at The Newt in Somerset. The museum is set underground with a long glazed elevation opening onto the adjacent woodland. The roof is grassed and is inhabited by the estate deer herd. The museum has as low a visual impact as possible as one approaches it. The approach is dramatic. The woodland floor descends from the museum forming a dell at a lower level. This topography provides the setting for a treetop walkway. The walkway, called “The Viper”, starts its journey at the museum roof level and winds its way through the trees.
The visitor approaches it at the northern end of the museum and walks through the tree canopies towards the entrance. As one weaves through the trees, immersed in the flora and fauna of the woodland, views of the museum are glimpsed at canopy level. The drama of arrival at the The Story of Gardening is set up by the juxtaposition of a civic public space which is located in a secluded woodland setting. On arrival at the entrance the walkway splays out to form a terrace and the museum reveals itself. Full height glazing to the front elevation is minimal and elegant.
During the day-time the woodland is reflected in the glazing. 5m high glazed sliding doors open to present the visitor reception and cafe. The permanent exhibition offers the opportunity to engage in a deeper exploration of the central theme of the estate, the garden. All the while, whilst enjoying the exhibition and the museum, the visitor can look back outside through the glazed elevation to the woodland right outside. The interior of the museum is a simple in-situ concrete shell.
Bathrooms and cafe areas display a continental style “civic-ness” through the use of moulded ceramic tiles. This is complemented by a playfulness in metal coat pegs which are handcrafted by locals blacksmiths in a natural waxed finish to the theme of garden tools, flowers and insects. The southern wall of the museum, and the base to the glazed elevation are expressed inside and outside by the use of local Hadspen stone aggregate concrete. This material is being used elsewhere on the Estate and grounds the museum in its context. The contents of the museum can exist in a robust environment.
The internal environment of the museum is therefore more about sufficient fresh air and correct temperature for visitors than a perfectly controlled atmosphere more akin to other museums and galleries. This allows the cafe space to be an “in-between” environment where staff and visitors may decide to keep their coats on. The museum utilises thermal mass from the in-situ concrete which lessons the cooling and heating load. A ground source heat pump with a horizontal ground array primarily feeds underfloor heating. A mechanical vent heat recovering system minimises the energy required to heat and cool air.