Windermere Jetty Museum
Carmody Groarke’s Windermere Jetty Museum, located between the villages of Bowness and Windermere in the Lake District National Park, rehabilitates an historic gravel-extraction plant to create an elegantly austere assembly of volumes on the lake’s edge.
Af Jason Dibbs
The resulting stark and brooding forms resonate with the poetic sublimity of the landscape, as well as with the unique and quaint industrial heritage of this popular holiday destination.
The recently finished design for “Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam, and Stories”, by London-based architecture practice Carmody Groarke, is situated amidst the fairy-tale landscape of Windermere, on the banks of England’s largest lake. The area is renowned for its Victorian-era holiday-goers, and its association with the Romanticism of John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, and of course Beatrix Potter. Given the rich and poetic history and topography of the area, Carmody Groarke’s quiet and unassuming architectural intervention appears perfectly calibrated and poised. It is very clearly an architecture of the place, without reverting to the dry-stone and slate synonymous with the Lake District.
The program for Carmody Groarke’s Windermere Jetty Museum includes exhibition spaces, a boatyard, conservation workshop, education areas, and a café. It is home to a vast collection of boats, including steamships, motorboats, and even Beatrix Potter’s rustic rowboat. These facilities are situated within square-planned, pitched-roof, barn-like volumes. They intersect and adjoin at times, and some are replete with impossibly large eaves inspired by Charles Voysey’s arts and crafts home of Broad Leys — now the headquarters of the Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club. These provide sheltered outdoor areas, a necessity given the region’s annual precipitation. Clad homogeneously in black-oxidized, pleated copper, the façade is already showing subtle signs of the verdigris patina that will surely come to engulf the building over time.
Kevin Carmody and Andy Groarke founded their eponymously named practice in 2006, emerging from David Chipperfield’s renowned studio. The Windermere Jetty Museum represents a further step into the realm of public architecture for the practice, and with a gestation period of almost ten years, built at a cost of £20 million — a budget in part provided by the Lakeland Arts charity (responsible for running the museum) and the Heritage Lottery Fund — it is evidence of the practice’s vision, stamina, and maturity.
Regarding the concepts behind the design for the Windermere Jetty Museum, Andy Groarke has explained that the practice “wanted to create a museum whose design would make a connection between people, boats and water, and which would also reinterpret the site’s industrial and picturesque heritage.” Carmody Groarke’s “ambition is that the new museum will frame vivid experiences of the unique collection, the beautiful ecology and the natural landscape of its setting.”
With the Windermere Jetty Museum, Carmody Groarke has deconstructed Lake District vernacular architectural typologies to arrive at a deftly utilitarian, yet materially rich series of quiet buildings, showcasing both the boating history of Windermere and the majesty of the lakes and their attendant mountains. This is a new kind of poetry for the Lake District, one of parsimony, modesty, and place.