The site for the magnificent Cambridge American Cemetery – the only American World War 2 cemetery in the UK – lies on a slope with the west and south sides framed by woodland. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,811 American war dead, and 5,127 names are recorded on the Walls of the Missing. RMA’s brief was to prepare landscape proposals for a new visitor centre, designed by BB+C Architects, including the siting of the new building, access and car parking.
01 Our Vision
Our landscape proposals were based on a thorough understanding of the existing site, the client’s requirements and the aspirations for the long-term management of the woodland. Our aims were:
– to integrate the new building into the existing landscape, minimising the visual and ecological impacts on the site;
– to respect and complement the vision of the Olmsted Brothers, the original landscape architects;
– to protect the existing retained trees and improve the biodiversity of the woodland;
– to rationalise the car parking layout;
– to create a better sense of arrival, with a high quality pedestrian orientation space; and
– to provide improved, more legible pedestrian routes from the car park to the visitor facilities.
02 Our Process
The new centre was sensitively integrated within the original Olmsted Brothers masterplan, forming a low backdrop to the main axis of the canal and the Great Mall; it was inserted behind an existing yew hedge and between mature oak trees, retaining the wooded backcloth to the site. Car parking was rationalised and extended within the roadside woodland belt, with sensitive, ‘no-dig’ approaches to construction.
03 The Outcome
The new visitor centre was dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on 26 May 2014 (Memorial Day in the US). Our landscape plan included reinvigorating a strip of woodland next to the new building and specified the planting of almost 60,000 bluebell bulbs alongside the same number of wood anenomes and 39,000 snowdrops. The woodland flowers have continued to flourish, and the new landscape has matured beautifully under the client’s conscientious stewardship.