Alnwick Garden blooms with Hopkins Architects

Hopkins Architects has been appointed to create a pavilion and visitor centre at The Alnwick Garden, as the North East tourist attraction seeks to meet the requirements of higher than expected visitor numbers.

Planning permission has been granted and construction on the project, worth £11.4m, is due to start this month. The work incorporates space for exhibitions and performances, learning and interpretation areas, retail, admissions and orientation facilities, a visitor café and a 350m2 multifunctional area with its own private garden.

Alnwick Garden was originally created in the 18th century, but fell out of use after World War II. A refurbishment programme began in 1996 and the gardens reopened to the public in 2001. Using a combination of technology, horticulture, modern art and architecture, the attraction aims to become an international centre of excellence for contemporary garden design.

Current facilities at the site have proven inadequate for visitor numbers. The garden, which expects 400 000 visitors per year, attracted more than 500 000 visitors in the eight months since last April.

According to Hopkins Architects director Jonathan Knight, the group has been briefed to ensure interiors at the site are ‘in keeping with the spirit of the garden’ and meet its ‘progressive’ vision.

‘It’s not a staid, National Trust- style garden,’ explains Knight. ‘It’s more interactive and will host festivals and concerts [so] buildings need to facilitate this kind of use.’

The shell of the building, which is primarily timber and steel, will be exposed and, in a bid to ‘migrate the inside to the outside’, stone flooring is common to both areas. Walls will be retractable to further open up the space.

Hopkins Architects was appointed to the project following a 19-way pitch process.

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