Natural History Museum

Location: Kensington

Client: Natural History Museum

Cost: £1.5M

Landscape Architect: Peter Wilder 

The aim of this project is to transform the Natural History Museum’s southern entrance. Already the centrepiece of the iconic southern façade, Blakedown was tasked with making it more accessible for all users and improve the visitor experience.


The works included:

○  Removal of the existing forecourt, reducing levels and installing a new concrete reinforced sub-base

○  Installation of Porphyry Setts to a ‘Bogen’ patten

○  Lifting of East and West Ramps, waterproofing and then relaying to new levels for DDA compliance

○  Removal of existing steps, building up levels in the catacombs to re-install steps along with some new to create level entrance

○  Restoration of railings to Cromwell road

○  Cleaning and repair to Terracotta at entranceways

  New drainage system and attenuation tank

  Electrical works and new lighting

  Irrigation system

  Bespoke Brass planter

  New handrails

  Preparation for planting by Fossil Plants


Further information:

The museum entrance, once an obstacle to wheelchairs and pushchairs, has been reconfigured with ramps that abut the Grade I Listed building. The large bastions that lie either side of the main entrance steps have been transformed into planters putting on a display of flora from the Canary Islands, one of the first places that Darwin and subsequent botanists experienced species outside of Europe.

The large forecourt, once a sea of tarmac, has finally been given the dignity that it deserves by being paved in elegant arcs of porphyry stone setts. The scheme looks immediately in keeping with the heritage of the building, so much so that many visitors will hardly recognise it as a new landscape. This has not been an easy task. Beneath the new stonework lies a great deal of new technology, including attenuation tanks, irrigations systems, lighting and extensive re-engineering to make good the crumbling structure of the catacombs that lie beneath the steps and carriage ramps.

The main forecourt ‘Bogen’ pattern was a key element, we utilised skilled staff to select and lay the units using a template to ensure accuracy. The stone selection was key to forming the arc and a process which also required time and space of which both were tight.

The contract was intricate and complicated and therefore demanded a high degree of skill to achieve the quality required. However, this was further compromised by the number of unforeseen services and underground obstructions, which had to be overcome in order to maintain the detailed design layout of the paving.

We therefore had to continually redesign and modify the construction process to accommodate these services and obstructions, whilst still achieving the design objectives. This was particularly evident when undertaking the large attenuation tank works, which had to be re-designed and consequently relocated in part, to avoid existing services, whilst maintaining the preferred paving layout to the forecourt.

In addition, the construction of the new steps utilising both existing and new step units had to be radically altered in terms of the support structure required, once the existing supports could be properly surveyed. This required additional structural design and development mid contract, whilst still maintaining programme and meeting the original design concept.

The finished scheme has been well received and partly opened during a Royal visit to the new Hintze Hall. The client now has an entranceway to be proud of and once which is fully accessible to all the public.

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