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Reaching new heights; planting new ideas

Planning permission given for a striking, new ‘Rising Path’ that will give visitors to the Garden a lofty new perspective on its Systematic Beds
The Rising Path: aerial viewThe Rising Path: aerial view
Planning permission has been granted by the Cambridge City Council for the Garden’s plans for the 65-metre long Rising Path. A dynamic spiral, the Rising Path will feature an interpretation hub and 3-metre high elevated viewpoint, all designed to inspire visitors to explore the Botanic Garden’s Systematic Beds with fresh eyes and questioning minds.

Occupying nearly three acres, the Systematic Beds at Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG) are of global heritage significance. Laid out in 1845 to demonstrate plant diversity and to teach plant taxonomy, the science of plant classification, uniquely their design incorporates the leading botanic text book of the time and remains bold, visionary and beautiful to this day.

Situated to the south of the Systematic Beds, the Rising Path has been devised as a gently sloping path that leads off from the established path network. The journey along and up the Rising Path will spiral through the maturing conifer collection of the New Pinetum and be punctuated by interpretation highlighting the evolutionary innovations that enabled plants to survive on land. Arriving at the three-metre high viewpoint, visitors will discover a stunning overview of the unique design of the Systematic Beds. The interpretation hub at ground level will house engaging displays drawn from the Garden’s archives to encourage visitors to explore the Systematic Beds. The green space enclosed by the Rising Path will provide a group briefing space as well as a pop-up, outdoor plant ‘lab bench’ for public events.

Professor Beverley Glover, Director of the Botanic Garden, said: “Our challenge to the architects was to design an imaginative structure that played on the unique character of our historic landscape and outdoor, living collection of plants. With the Rising Path, they have succeeded in creating just the kind of intriguing, memorable and uplifting experience we were after. As the world faces key challenges, such as food security and biodiversity loss, which have plants at the heart of their solutions, we are very excited to be able to enhance our visitors’ understanding and enjoyment of our iconic Systematic Beds. The Botanic Garden is at its best when it combines cutting-edge science, world-class horticulture and thoughtful and thought-provoking interpretation. This project will combine these elements and allow our visitors to adventure through how and why humans seek to understand and organise plant diversity. We hope it will inspire the ‘inner Darwin’ in all our visitors to be curious about plants!”

The Rising Path has been designed by Cambridge architects, chadwickdryerclarke studio, and is the keystone of the three-year Understanding Plant Diversity project at the CUBG, which is supported by The Monument Trust. The project seeks to revitalise the contemporary relevance of the Systematic Beds for researchers, teachers and visitors. From global issues of food security to the local need to access high-quality green space in an increasingly high-density city, the need for public understanding of and access to plant diversity has never been greater.
Robin Dryer of chadwickdryerclarke studio, said: “It is a privilege to be asked to design a structure within the special and beautiful setting of the Botanic Garden. Mindful of the value of the collections around it, The Rising Path has an elegant curving form that provides a framework for furthering understanding of the Systematic Beds, as well as defining a stimulating new space in the Garden.”

Construction begins in the spring, and the Botanic Garden anticipates that the Rising Path will be ready for visitors in late summer 2018.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a Grade II* listed heritage garden in the centre of Cambridge. The Garden maintains the University’s collection of living plants, which number 8,000 species, across 40 acres of beautifully designed and maintained landscape. It is the most visited university botanic garden in the UK, welcoming over 275,000 visitors annually.

Publication Date
25/01/2018