National Maritime Museum

Summoning the sea

Our sensitive design for the National Maritime Museum has quickly become a much-loved public space.  Flowing water evokes the essence of the sea - and makes the perfect place to play.


The National Maritime Museum sits within an iconic four-hundred-year-old landscape, the Greenwich World Heritage Site. Our challenge was to protect the Baroque charm and splendour, while creating a better flow of visitors to the Museum.

Historically the landscape centred on the grand drive running from the Queen’s House north to the Thames, but our vision recognised another significant path running from east to west. This links two key sites - the Royal Park and the Museum – where a new entrance had created an opportunity for an inclusive and inspiring public space.

Water has defined the site for centuries. Today it continues to flow at the heart of our concept, along a160m long rill which draws visitors in from the Western boundary to the museum entrance. Here children can sail paper boats or dabble in a game of poohsticks, while adults can rest a while on the wall, cooling their hands on a hot summer’s day.

At the entrance to the museum a new, contemporary civic space provides a focal point along the axis, with a series of flooded steps echoing waves lapping on the seashore. Outdoor seating for the Parkside Café provides the perfect spot for a cup of tea, while children paddle on the ‘beach’.

Our planting recalls maritime influences, with herbaceous borders providing colour and texture, and rooftops echoing clifftops with shingle-loving species. 

By listening carefully to the site’s story and respecting its close connection to the sea, we have been able to create a landscape at once beautiful and playful. It’s an approach that has won over the crowds – with a steady footfall proving its continued success. 

 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
 (Churchman Thornhill Finch)

"Successful design is beautiful and accessible – creating places where people feel at home