Beamish Visitor Centre,
Beamish

Client

Beamish Open Air Museum

Our design solution was a response to the unique context of Beamish, optimising the topography of the landscaped bowl and the contours that define it and to meet the primary design requirement for accessibility. From the outset, we were seeking a design which afforded glimpses of the destinations which constitute the museum such that the new visitor centre served to orientate.

A key generator was the requirement to manage peaks in pedestrian flow to the car park and to the first tram stop, a fall of almost 10 metres. The building was conceived as a promenade between these levels ‘contouring’ the hillside, and together with the roof over it (which was fractured in shards of ascending / descending sizes to heighten the perspective), presented a graphic continuation of the winding entrance road when viewed from the 1913 village.

The component parts of the brief were contained within a ‘village’ of pavilions each configured to their function. The promenade was seen as a device that cohesified the pavilions.

To the west of a service spine that threaded directly through the promenade, the pavilions (café, shop) were extrovert / open nature optimising views across the bowl towards the 1913 village. To the east (temporary exhibition, education area) they were more introvert / closed. Materially, they were clad in materials that appeared to be indigenous to the “spirit” of the place and appropriate to their functions.

The whole presented a fragmented form on the hillside, with glimpses of destinations viewed between a cluster of pavilions, and from different levels, from within. The design and arrangement allowed the building to ‘flex’ to meet changing demands and staffing levels across different seasons and different times of the day.