Building Study: Windermere Jetty Museum, Cumbria, by Carmody Groarke

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Carmody Groarke’s museum joyfully embodies and integrates with the romantic landscape and local vernacular of the Lakes

“Don’t spoil the view” hardly sounds like the most ambitious proposition for an architect to make when designing a new building but it is one that had a profound impact on Carmody Groarke’s latest work. The Windermere Jetty Museum in Cumbria’s Lake District sits on the eastern shore of England’s largest natural lake and is surrounded by some of the most spectacular natural scenery in northern Europe.

The museum was founded in 1977 as venue for the display and conservation of boats that had spent their working lives on Windermere. It was built on the site of an old waterside sand and gravel works dating from the 1920s. The museum included an old wet dock used by the gravel works, which had simply been roofed over to form a covered jetty where boats could go on display.

Despite a makeshift extension in the 1980s, the museum’s poor accommodation increasingly compromised its curatorial and conservational viability and in 2006 it closed and its boat collection was taken into storage. A change of ownership then followed after which the new owners held an architectural competition for a new museum design that accommodated gallery and conservation areas in 2011.

Despite Carmody Groarke then being a young and relatively small practice of 11, they beat a shortlist of seven others to win the commission. After various Heritage Lottery Fund application stages construction began in November 2015 and the new £20m museum is due to open to the public this weekend.

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