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Bronze Gardens

Oct 2017


Aurubis Finland OY


Richardson Roofing Company Ltd


Dow Jones Architects'

Dow Jones Architects’ recently completed second phase of the Garden Museum uses bespoke bronze shingle cladding and lightweight construction techniques to meet a range of challenges presented by one of London’s most historically important sites.

The Garden Museum celebrates the history, culture and design of gardens and is housed in the deconsecrated, protected church of St Mary at Lambeth. Dow Jones Architects’ first phase in 2008 involved a two-storey gallery inside the church, creating new galleries, an education room and storage, and consolidated the nave as an events space. This allowed the museum’s many varied events and educational activities to flourish, and generated a 400% growth in visitor numbers in the first year.

The pavilions provide rooms for learning and community activities and a café, connected by a glazed cloister that frames a new, Dan Pearson designed garden. Offices, workshops and other support areas fill a gap between the church and garden wall. The site presented many challenges including protected trees, historic tombs and views to Lambeth Palace – as well as some 36,000 bodies in the old cemetery. The solution is a lightweight, bronze-clad timber structure built on a thin 300mm concrete raft.

Dramatic Urban Presence

The 2013 competition-winning second phase extends the museum both within the existing building and out into the churchyard. Being housed in a church building, the museum was often mistaken for part of the neighbouring Lambeth Palace. The new building provides a much-needed, dramatic urban presence – a cluster of bronze-clad, timber frame pavilions fronting the street.

A full-scale mock-up of the facade was built on site to explore different cladding material options of bronze, brass and pre-oxidised copper from Aurubis
Bronze 6

Bespoke Bronze Shingles

The pavilions are clad in bespoke bronze shingles set out to reflect the scale-like quality of the bark of the surrounding plane trees. Plane trees were intro duced to Britain by royal plant-gatherer John Tradescant, who is buried in the churchyard and is the genesis of the museum.

A full-scale mock-up of the facade was built on site to explore different cladding material options of bronze, brass and pre-oxidised copper from Aurubis.

The company’s Nordic Bronze was chosen as it will weather from a bright copper to an earthy chocolate brown. This colour will allow the building to sit quietly within the graveyard, allowing the garden and church to have the strongest presence. Some flat roofs are also bronzecovered, alongside planted ‘green roofs’.

Bronze in Detail

The architects worked closely with FTMRC member and building envelope contractor Richardson Roofing to develop the bespoke bronze cladding system. The resulting interlocking bronze shingles are 950 x 450mm, spaced 150mm apart horizontally, have concealed fixings and are folded at the edges for strength. They were formed on site and fixed to resilient marine plywood, with separating breather membrane in between. This was backed by a 50mm battened vent zone before another layer of marine ply mounted on the insulated timber stud frame of the building. Bronze shingles were used internally in some areas as well. The shingles wrap tightly around the façade, meeting the windows and slim warm roof construction to form a crisp outline. Mechanical extract vents were integrated into the cladding shingles by creating custom bronze cowls which protrude outwards.