Northcross cultivates Kew outpost

Northcross will agree basic guidelines next week for the branding and spatial interpretation of visitor facilities at Wakehurst Place, the West Sussex satellite of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The consultancy is devising signage, creative concepts and operational plans for the café, retail and reception spaces of a new-build visitor centre designed by architect Walters & Cohen. Among the key tasks are reflecting the Kew and National Trust brand values and advising on interior layout and visitor flow.

Graham Russell, group director at Northcross’s Edinburgh office, says the job involves much more of a ‘consultative process’ than design implementation. ‘We’re providing clear guidelines for everything from materials to branding. But it’s generally sketchwork that the architects will be detailing.’

Known as Kew’s country garden, the 202ha site attracts more than 300 000 visitors a year to view its flora and fauna as well as an Elizabethan mansion house. However, the present layout and visitor facilities leave much to be desired, according to a Wakehurst Place spokesman.

‘There’s an outdoor toilet block and the ticket office is basically a garden shed with sliding windows. People often have to queue in the rain. It’s not really on,’ he says.

Entering and exiting the site is currently from one of the highest points in the landscape, making wheelchair access difficult. The plan is to relocate the entrance to a ‘mid-point’ that provides a ‘flat path to the garden, which is in the mansion area’, he adds.

Northcross was appointed in December last year without a pitch. The new visitor centre is scheduled to open in January 2004.

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