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The Herbarium at Benmore

Part 1 Project 2014
Jack Baker
Mackintosh School of Architecture, UK
A herbarium is a library containing dried plants. It is a sanctuary of knowledge, discovery and exploration. Once a plant has been carefully processed and placed into archive its cycle has not ended, it has just begun. Specimens are regularly compared and reconsidered to help experts figure out the changing patterns in the World’s plants.

The proposal for a small herbarium in the Benmore botanical gardens, just north of Dunoon, focuses on a unique architectural experience in which to archive and study plants. The form and organization of the building has come from extensive research into the users needs, the context and the importance of plant life in developing our knowledge of the Earth. The proposal aims to allow the researchers to immerse themselves within the subject by providing them with inspirational surroundings in which to work.

Sustainability and longevity are also key factors that influenced the design. The building is to remain “off-grid” throughout the seasons, and this has been achieved through the basis of key design principles such as form, orientation and functionality. The site, in which the herbarium sits, has been enhanced to provide the ending to a journey through the gardens, but also deliver long-lasting surroundings that will continue to inspire researchers.

Embedding a building within its context has been a strong on-going theme throughout my undergraduate studies. As an architecture student, I am designing for people and for place. In this project, the people will be at work within the building. It was key to investigate their daily routines to inform the design of a series of spaces that will inspire them every time they step foot inside. Appropriately, the setting is a botanical garden, containing a rich variety of plant-life. Instead of blending into its surroundings the building aims to stand proud yet firmly rooted to the ground through appropriate form and a simple palette of materials informed by the immediate context.

Jack Baker


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