New American Garden Pavilions, Bath

Expanding our client’s offer in the setting of a Grade I listed manor

We have worked with the America Museum in Britain on various projects for over 20 years, with each phase enhancing the visitor experience and museum’s cultural programme. The New American Garden and Pavilion is part of this on-going development.

In 2016, we began planning with the Museum to expand the grounds around the Grade I listed Claverton Manor to create the largest collection of American horticultural features in the UK. Part of this masterplanning exercise was the construction of a new visitors’ pavilion to create a reception and entrance for visitors to enter this new experience and museum attraction.

One of the main challenges of this project was understanding where to locate the new pavilion, as Claverton Manor and its setting has many significant heritage constraints. Various locations and options were explored but over time, management considerations dictated this be located very close to the Manor. In presenting the planning case, we highlighted the inter-continental significance of the history and ongoing work of the institution which contributes to the local economy and tourism industry to the south west.  This high-level approach appealed to councillors, looking beyond the purely building heritage dimension, and won the day.

The design of the entrance pavilions represents a delicate balance and response to the unique context in which they sit. The roofs essentially communicate the status of the buildings, provide shelter and – via the lanterns – gather and project natural light to animate the internal spaces. The lanterns are the focal points to the pavilions and required the largest proportion of design refinement, working closely with specialist sub-contractors to fully detail the many junctions and profiles to achieve the visual lightness and sensitivity required. The attention to detail extended to the use of rolled glass which duplicates the distorted aesthetic found in older buildings.

We used offsite construction methods blended with traditional craftmanship for all the main elements comprising roofs, lanterns, walls, perimeter columns, gazebo benching, windows, doors and ticket office furniture. To keep the embodied energy and mass low, timber was selected as the primary construction material. This was combined with their manufacture being undertaken within a 12-mile radius of the site to reduce environmental transportation impact. Liaising with the head gardener, valuable Yew tree timber was retained for re-use within the design as flooring and feature details for the lanterns.

The project’s success has been recognised by considerable national and regional media coverage of the new attraction, the public opening by Alan Titchmarsh and its launch by the Duke of Gloucester and the US Ambassador to the UK. Whilst it is still early days to confirm figures, visitor numbers and membership have increased attracting a new type of tourist to the region. It also gives the museum the opportunity to expand its offer and attract a new type of tourist interested in horticulture to the Bath region.