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Denizen Works’ ‘vertical gallery’ in Scottish botanical gardens approved

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Highland Council has given the green light to Denizen Works’ plans for a ‘vertical gallery’ and bird hide in Inverewe Garden, a 19th-century botanical garden in north-west Scotland

The 20m-tall ‘eyrie’ tower, which is backed by the National Trust for Scotland, will sit on a bush-hammered concrete base and be clad in stained larch, sourced on site.

According to the architect, the structure will act as a staircase between footpaths at different levels and become both ‘a landmark and orientation point [to encourage] more visitors to visit the far reaches of the garden’.

Murray Kerr, the founder of the Hackney-based practice, which won the Manser Medal with its House No 7 on Tiree in 2014, said: ‘Receiving planning permission for an innovative vertical gallery within the world renowned Inverewe Garden represents a major stepping stone for the office.’

’We think we have the makings of something really special.’

Inverewe Garden, lying north of Poolewe in Wester Ross, was built in 1862 by landowner Osgood Mackenzie and is famous for the range of rare species that thrive there, thanks to the effects of the Gulf Stream.

Work is due to start on site this autumn.

See the full application here.

Architect’s view

Our response to this open brief from the National Trust for Scotland saw us explore the history of Inverewe and take inspiration from the natural world. Combining the rich artistic heritage of the garden with nesting forms of local wildlife has resulted in proposals for our vertical gallery and bird hide.

For the visitor, the experience will be one of intrigue: a structure where the internal functions are not necessarily understood from the outside, much like a burrow or woodpecker’s nest.

Rather than creating a tower for its own sake, we were interested in creating an experience integrated into the natural route through the garden landscape.

The intervention will function as a landmark and orientation point while encouraging more visitors to visit the far reaches of the garden. Forming part of a route, the tower is accessed from the High Viewpoint where visitors will follow a path down the natural contours before crossing a short bridge to the tower. The staircase links to a further network of paths at the base via gallery spaces telling the story of the garden through different spatial experiences at each level, combined with art specially commissioned for the tower.

At the top of the tower, a bird hide affords stunning views across the tree canopies and allows visitors to observe the local wildlife, including nearby nesting herons and local golden eagles.

The materiality of the tower is based on the idea of a sliced tree trunk

The materiality of the tower is based on the idea of a sliced tree trunk, with its rough and smooth faces. Dark, stained, vertical larch cladding, sourced on site, contrasts with smooth pine tar. The tower rests on a solid base formed from bush-hammered concrete. Internally, the timber sheathing board is left exposed, providing a warm and light counterpoint to the totemic presence of the tower.

These materials will be reflected throughout a wider masterplan to refurbish the restaurant and retail areas, as well as a possible series of smaller sculptural interventions across the landscape.

16 early sketch

16 early sketch 

Project data

Location Inverewe Garden, Achnasheen in the Scottish Highlands
Type of project Vertical gallery and bird hide
Client National Trust for Scotland
Architect Denizen Works
Start on site date Autumn 2018
Completion date Spring 2019
Gross internal floor area 64m²
Form of contract and/or procurement Design and Build

14 diagrams

14 diagrams

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Are the dark stained surfaces really such a good idea? Locally grown timber is obviously not as robust as the slow grown Siberian version, but treatment to slow or arrest the onset of decay doesn't necessarily involve staining, and in this context the natural weathering to silver-grey would surely be more appropriate than the assertiveness of near-black, however seductive the notion of a sliced tree trunk (which seems tenuous, given that the tower has flat facades). I wonder what Osgood McKenzie would have thought?
    Heaven forfend that anyone might wonder if architectural ego was getting in the way of sympathetic design.

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  • looks great - look forward to visiting one day

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  • I too will want to (revisit) Inverewe to see this; NTS need to be congratulated as an open-minded client. Great stuff.

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