The Systematic Beds are a unique feature and key component within Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, established to promote understanding of how plant families relate to each other.
For a competition entry, we developed concept designs for a new interpretation station that would function as a hub building to inspire and educate visitors so they could better explore, enjoy and engage with the Systematic Beds. By doing so, the facility would reinforce the key values established by the gardens’ curator, Andrew Murray, who, in 1845, designed the gardens as a manifestation of De Candolle’s texts on plant taxonomy.
The material palette is limited to a few core materials that emphasise the simple yet elegant form the building and offer the robust simplicity required of a low maintenance structure.
The wall and stair components are proposed as cor-ten steel, which weathers naturally to produce a rust-like appearance that can protect the integrity of the material. Cor-ten is also used in many parts of the current gardens, so provides a continuity to the gardens as a whole.
Our proposed structure sits within the existing ‘meadow’ and comprises six key elements which define the spatial arrangement.
Viewing stair: offers an elevated view of the arrangement of the systematic beds. The stair is sized to allow for a maximum of 2-3 people to ensure visitors can privately enjoy the garden view.
Canopy: provides shelter from the elements and demarks the interpretation area.
Display zone: houses interpretation displays.
Glass enclosure: provides enclosure to the amphitheatre area of the structure.
Structural wall: provides a backdrop to the space and can form a setting for some of the exhibition contents.
Amphitheatre: allows for the informal congregation of visitors to be addressed in a semi contained area, offering degree of separation from other visitors to the structure .
The main wall would be formed of another natural material, and may be worked, carved or perforated to support the exhibition requirements.
The roof is a simple and slender concrete slab, weather protected and finished with gravel so it’s finished appearance is of a raised pathway area.