The Garden Museum

Standing next to Lambeth Palace in London, the church of St Mary-at-Lambeth was threatened by demolition in the 1970s. It was rescued by the founding of the Garden Museum on the site. The building was poorly suited for such use but spaces needed for meetings, galleries, a cafe and other facilities have been created by Dow Jones Architects through new work woven within and around the fabric of the former church.

The nature of the Grade II* listed church precluded anything touching the old walls or disturbing ancient burials. Internally CLT (cross-laminated timber) has been used extensively. The only other suitable materials would have been steel or in situ concrete, both of which would have been too heavy to stand on the existing timber floor, and too expensive. The café, which once occupied an aisle of the old church, now opens on to the road. This extension has been built to be light enough to sit on a shallow concrete raft and is clad with bronze which, over time, will variegate in a pattern which echoes the bark of the local plane trees.

‘With the Garden Museum, one of the main things we were trying to achieve through the design was to allow the museum as an organisation to find an identity which enabled them to get their heads above the parapet, literally and metaphorically. What’s been interesting is the way that the architecture enabled them to break the shackles of the building and this has enabled them to be a lot more reflective about the building that they have.’ 

Alun Jones, Dow Jones Architects

The Garden Museum features in New Design For Old Buildings by Roger Hunt and Iain Boyd