Heritage Museums & Gardens broke ground today on the new and enhanced Barbey Family Welcome Center.
The project will improve the visitor experience through increased accessibility and more intuitive wayfinding; model and interpret environmental sustainability; and provide expanded facilities to meet the growing needs of visitors and the community.
Heritage's expansive cultural campus, located on the banks of Shawme Pond in historic Sandwich, MA, is home to a hundred acres of gardens and woodlands, and over a thousand varieties of trees, flowers, and shrubs. The site draws more than 130,000 visitors each year to learn about and celebrate the landscapes, history, and cultures of Cape Cod and southeastern New England. Its existing admissions facility was built in 1968 to accommodate just 20% of today’s annual visitation, and is, according to the museum, “aging, undersized, and confusing.” The new welcome center is designed to hold vastly more guests of all ages and abilities, while serving as an inviting gateway to the gardens and museums beyond.
“I am thrilled to break ground for the Barbey Family Welcome Center. This project marks a significant milestone in our journey to deepen the visitor experience and further showcase the cultural, educational, and horticultural richness of Heritage. The Barbey Family Welcome Center is not just a series of buildings, it is an experience of its own, a gateway to the wonders and beauty that await. I am confident that this new addition will play a crucial role in making every visit to Heritage Museums & Gardens a memorable and enjoyable experience for all."
—Anne Scott-Putney, President & CEO, Heritage Museums & Gardens.
The new welcome center will provide a warm and engaging experience as visitors begin their exploration of the site’s diverse offerings. Stone garden walls and low-sloped roofs blend the architecture with the landscape, minimizing visual impact from the road while providing new vistas from which to view the popular Flume Fountain. With discovery as its central theme, the 8,000 SF facility comprises four small stone and wood structures: a ticketing entrance, restrooms, a gift shop, and the Clarissa S. Nye Visitor Services Center. Drawing inspiration from the existing Heritage campus architecture while remaining respectful of the local historical vernacular, the structures are arranged playfully to encourage visitors to explore. In support of Heritage’s far-reaching sustainability goals, this configuration will also allow the buildings to operate separately, and for public-facing facilities to be shut down when the campus is closed.
“By separating these structures and integrating them into the surrounding landscape, our design preserves the center’s existing sense of scale while showcasing the majesty of the natural setting. We wanted the new Barbey Family Welcome Center to embody the excitement and wonder of exploring a garden.”
—Alan Reed, Design Principal
Guests will first arrive to the courtyard, where groups can gather and visit the gift shop or use the restroom facilities before intuitively moving towards the ticketing building for admission. As visitors near the gardens, they will find the Clarissa S. Nye Visitor Services Center, a new space to engage with Heritage staff and learn about the museums’ history through interpretive exhibits. Carefully curated views of the site’s signature water flume and lush landscape will create a memorable first impression that beckons visitors onward. The visitor center is the last stop before the K.A.H.R. Foundation Flume Plaza, a shaded seating and gathering area where groups can meet, rest, and enjoy the stunning vistas before moving on to the grounds.
Hidden below the ticketing and visitor center pavilions is a lower level complete with a flexible boardroom featuring views of the Flume. An elevator and grand stair provide access from the plaza to a new, accessible pathway through the woods, connecting the new welcome center to the existing Flume Fountain Garden and Arbor Bowl areas. This new visitor loop will increase the accessibility of Heritage’s campus, ensuring that all guests can comfortably and safely navigate and enjoy the facilities.
Supporting Heritage Museums & Gardens’ mission of providing leadership in sustainable design through the Beacon Sustainability Project, an efficient envelope, all-electric systems, on-site renewables through solar panels, and demand meters to track energy use will help meet the high-efficiency standards consistent with Massachusetts’ decarbonization goals. The plaza’s permeable paving will filter rainwater into a system below that recharges and invigorates the landscape. The new welcome center is intended to serve as a model for sustainable construction and provide interpretation for visitors to learn about environmentally appropriate practices. The welcome center is a vital part of Heritage’s aim to become net-zero, having already made investments to cut emissions by 50 percent campus-wide.