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Benmore Herbarium

Part 1 Project 2014
Ewan Hooper
Mackintosh School of Architecture | UK
Herbaria exist in a strange dichotomy between extinction and revelation, holding both endangered and unknown precious plants from around the world; they are a cross between a museum of priceless artefacts and a warehouse of birth certificates for plants. They are places of discovery: containing, collecting, expanding and protecting our knowledge. They are essential facilities for our world, the conservation of biodiversity is one of our planet’s most pressing and complex issues. Society needs information about the identities, characteristics, and requirements of plants and their ecosystems in order to understand and wisely manage the planet that we live on.

Benmore Herbarium accommodates staff, artists, international research specialists and the general public. The Herbarium focuses on the study of botany through art. Here the act of drawing is also about learning; artists and visitors study specimens and their creative input allows them to gain a deeper understanding of our world.

The design has an essential cultural role in re-establishing people’s connection with nature through its collection of specimens and also through the qualities of Benmore Botanical Gardens.

The architecture immerses itself in the site’s secretive and spectacular character allowing people to experience its sensory and experiential qualities. Manmade interventions create a series of profoundly differing natural experiences for staff and visitors; walkways weave through the topography along and over rivers, introverted concrete spaces en-tomb users surrounding them with specimens frozen in time, lightweight steel and timber volumes dramatically cantilever out towards tree tops and the distant landscape. These experiences contribute to a powerful succession creating a meaningful sense of place and space. A spiritual atmosphere captures people’s imagination as they interact with the preserved relics of nature amongst the wild nature surrounding them.

Throughout my undergraduate studies I have focused on creating architecture that comes from a contemporary response to people and place. I believe that a design process that focuses on people, context, light and materials and the emotive possibilities of architecture leads to form and space that is truly memorable and inspirational.

Working with these principles Benmore Herbarium creates a bespoke, emotive and imaginative place where people can thrive.

Ewan Hooper


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