The simple, strong forms of this museum sit deceptively lightly in their spectacular surroundings, evidencing a care in their making and materials that shows an impressive level of distilled thought from concept to detail.
Designed to house a collection of 40 or so boats, each associated with Lake Windermere, the museum tells the story of 200 years of boating and boat-building in the area.
The six steel-framed shed-like forms hug the shores of the lake, knitted into it through a series of new jetties, and through the largest central shed stepping out into the water over an existing wet dock, which allows for working boats to enter directly into the museum.
The practice clearly built up a great relationship with the client as well as keeping the local community involved through consultation
Five other shed forms spin off around this central one, each focused around a different function: entrance/ticketing space, education, administration, WCs, café and galleries, while a fifth detached structure houses conservation. Functionally this works very well, allowing each structure to be insulated, finished and environmentally tempered to different needs – from working conservation boat shed to museum-conditioned gallery space.
The simple edited forms are paralleled in a reduced palette of materials. The cladding of blackened pre-oxidised copper, interspersed with glazing and timber, echoes local creosote-boarded boat sheds and means the museum sits recessively and softly in a landscape that is both National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Inside too, materials follow a minimal if warmer palette of polished concrete floors and Douglas fir boarding, becoming eucalyptus where the wet dock’s 9m-high doors sit in contact with the lake water. This robust detailing, tweaked to different conditions, is also future-proofed for ease of disassembly where needed for long-term maintenance.
The museum is heated by water-source heat pumps, using the temperature of the lake water, which remains an almost constant 6°C even in winter. To reduce carbon footprint and flooding, outside hard-surfaced groundworks have been kept to a minimum. Concrete slipways and Tarmac for vehicle access are interspersed with permeable areas of Westmorland slate waste and a reed bed receiving rainwater run-off. These provide attenuation and filtration, returning water back to the lake.
This £20 million project is all the more impressive as the first large-scale scheme completed by the practice, which clearly built up a great relationship with the client as well as keeping the local community involved through consultation.
Both as a museum and a functioning piece of architecture, this works exceptionally well on so many levels.