The new museum houses an internationally significant boat collection on the shores of Windermere in the Lake District National Park. It includes exhibition spaces for the display of steam launches, motorboats, yachts and other vessels telling the stories of their construction and use on the lake. The site repurposes a historic gravel-extraction plant, continuing the working life of the place with an active conservation programme of the boats. Emphasis is placed on the visitor experience amongst buildings in a park landscape that creates a connection between people, boats and water, as well as providing a reinterpretation of the site’s picturesque and industrial heritage.
Rather than a singular huge building, a granular ensemble of smaller buildings that are square on plan creates a more fitting scale with its context. The museum therefore has a strong topographical relationship with the land and the water. The wet dock forms the centre-piece of the museum and brings the lake into the heart of the experience to present the collection at water level. Other buildings making up the visitor route including: main entrance, conservation galleries, interpretation, education and cafe, all cluster around the wet dock but are elevated on a podium away from the risk of floodwaters. A conservation workshop is a standalone building placed closer to the water level on the working boatyard.
The architectural language of the museum is characterised by the vernacular typology of the roof, taking reference from the pronounced overhanging eaves of Broadleys, Voysey’s grand house on Windermere, as well as more archetypal agricultural and industrial buildings of the Lake District. The building forms are somehow familiar, but made special by the overhanging canopies which extend the inside spaces of the building with all-weather shelter into the landscape. Internally, each individual building is organised with a large principal room centrally orientated to face the lakeshore, with ancillary spaces and the external canopy spaces balancing each side of the symmetrical sectional composition.
The museum is seen and approached from all sides, from land and water and from a number of points of elevation. Roofs and walls therefore assume equally important status in the formal composition. Oxidised copper is used as the determining material to give architectural consistency to these elements and to the museum buildings working together as a cohesive whole. Copper is folded and pinned with a regular pattern of brass fixings gives the elevations
a unique texture, which is further reinforced by the patina gained by weathering over time. Very large windows and doors enable boats to be easily moved between outside and inside and allows the museum route between buildings to be clearly legible.
Clear tectonic expression of the natural copper cladding gives levity to the forms in strong contrast to the monolithic concrete podium that they sit upon. The repeated horizontal grammar of the cladding’s string courses which wrap the buildings’ exterior further references the lateral datum of the beautiful lake context.
Andy Groarke said “Working closely with Lakeland Arts and museum stakeholders, we wanted to create a museum whose design would make a connection between people, boats and water, and which would also reinterpret the site’s industrial and picturesque heritage. Our ambition is that the new museum will frame vivid experiences of the unique collection, the beautiful ecology and the natural landscape of its setting.”