Urban Nature Project, Natural History Museum

South Kensington

The Urban Nature Project is a nationwide drive to start a new urban nature movement. With some 80% of people in the UK living in urban areas, a new national learning programme is also encouraging children to get outside and engage with the nature on their doorstep.

The launchpad for the project will be the redevelopment of the Museum’s South Kensington gardens into a welcoming, accessible, and biologically diverse green space.

As part of the Museum’s five-acre garden redevelopment programme, Walter Lilly have been appointed as the main contractor to carry out the work to the two principal gardens: the Evolution Garden and the Nature Discovery Garden.

Evolution Garden

The Evolution Garden will tell the story of life on Earth. It will include fossils, plants and a geological timeline wall, representing the various geological eras.

As improved Museum accessibility is also a significant part of this project, we will build ramps from the South Kensington tube station tunnel into the garden, and to the main Museum entrance.

Amongst the plants will be a snapshot of some of the life that lived during those periods, including a weather-proof Hypsilophodon and a towering Diplodocus.

Nature Discovery Garden 

The Nature Discovery Garden will encourage visitors to connect with nature whilst thinking about the future of our planet.

Key features will include:

  • Showcasing the fantastic nature on our doorstep.
  • Improvements to the existing Wildlife Garden
  • Updated paths for improved accessibility
  • Raised walkways to protect habitats, as well as a sunken walkway to encourage pond dipping
  • A reconfiguration of the existing ponds to increase the wetland area by 20%
  • New areas for urban grassland to encourage biodiversity

Additional building construction

  • Nature Activity Centre Supported by AWS – to be used for scientific projects and educational activities
  • Garden Kitchen – to be used as a café/function space, designed in keeping with the architecturally modern Palaeontology building and the Grade I listed Waterhouse Building.
  • The Darwin Centre Courtyard – a place where visitors can reflect about the future of nature.


Creating a sustainable design that works with the landscape is at the heart of this redevelopment. With an ambitious approach to sustainable construction, the project aims to have a positive impact on the environment. The project aims to:

Deliver a project which removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it contributes.

  • Reduce and limit energy consumption and design energy efficient buildings, using 100% renewable energy during construction and beyond.
  • Create a zero-waste garden and ensure no waste from the construction of the gardens goes to landfill.
  • Reduce water consumption and design to minimise water waste.
  • Source materials responsibly and aim to use 100% certified sustainable materials from the UK. When that’s not possible we’ll have a strong justification for a material’s use.
  • Care for biodiversity across the garden and elsewhere. The Natural History Museum will grow the plants coming into the garden in the UK as much as possible. Areas for nature to thrive in the garden will be increased.
  • Improve well-being for the Natural History Museum staff, volunteers and visitors by designing spaces with well-being in mind, providing spaces within the garden for reflection and relaxation, and ensuring mental health support is available for all.

CGI Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London, Feilden Fowles and J & L Gibbons

Project credentials


South Kensington


Natural History Museum


Project Manager: Mace
Architect: Feilden Fowles
Landscape Architect: J&L Gibbons
Quantity surveyor: Mace
Sustainability: Mace
Heritage consultant: Purcell
Structural engineer: engineersHRW
M&E Services: Max Fordham

“It is an honour and a privilege for Walter Lilly to be leading the construction of this iconic and educationally significant scheme, which sets a benchmark for sustainable construction practice across the industry. ”
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