Cape Cod’s Heritage Museums & Gardens is set for a makeover by GWWO Architects

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Cape Cod’s Heritage Museums & Gardens is set for a makeover by GWWO Architects

Heritage Museum & Gardens is a staple of the local economy in Sandwich, Cape Cod. A new proposal by GWWO Architects will help the museum accommodate more visitors. (Courtesy GWWO Architects)

Horticulture lovers in Cape Cod have reason to celebrate. Last week, Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, Massachusetts announced its plans for a new Welcome Center. The expansive museum campus, located in northern Cape Cod, is home to 100 acres of gardens and other recreational activities, including an outdoor stage, a carousel, and a collection of vintage vehicles. The expansion is long overdue, as the existing ticketing and entry facilities are designed to accommodate just 25,000 annual visitors, while today the campus welcomes over 130,000.

Since 1968, Heritage Museums & Gardens has been a staple in Sandwich, a town with a population of 20,000, whose economy is tied to tourism, and holds the title of the oldest town in Cape Cod.

Aerial view of GWWO's proposal for Heritage Museum & Gardens
The new Welcome Center will consist of an 8,000 square foot facility made of four small stone and wood structures: a ticketing entrance, restrooms, a gift shop, and the Clarissa S. Nye Visitor Center. (Courtesy GWWO Architects)

The expansion project, led by Baltimore- and West Hartford, Connecticut–based GWWO Architects centers on enhancing the visitor experience through accessibility improvements and new environmental and sustainable systems. GWWO is tasked with rectifying what the museum calls an “aging, undersized, and confusing” ensemble. The project addresses the need for increased capacity, improved circulation and usability, all while achieving net zero and staying in line with Massachusetts’s decarbonization goals. 

At 8,000 square feet the new Welcome Center will comprise of four, low-lying structures made of stone and wood. Housed within the four individual pavilions are a new and revamped ticketing entrance; gift shop; and the Clarissa S. Nye Visitor Center, where guests can meet with staff to learn about the programming and offerings on-site. The materials and appearance of the new buildings are informed by existing structures on the site and typical architecture found in the region. 

Exterior view of the new Welcome Center
Exterior view of the proposed Clarissa S. Nye Visitor Center (Courtesy GWWO Architects)

Masonry walls made of stone and “low-sloped roofs” are meant to blend the structures within the bucolic landscape. The pedestrian plaza the four new volumes orient themselves around lead visitors down a grand stair toward a walkway leading to Heritage Museums & Garden’s popular Flume fountain. GWWO Architects prescribed permeable pavers at the walkway to make the landscaping environmentally sustainable, along with solar panels, all electric systems, and efficient envelope design to “cut emissions by 50 percent campus-wide.”

Rearview of the Clarissa S. Nye Visitor Center (Courtesy GWWO Architects)
Heritage Museums & Garden’s beloved landscaping will be improved with new pedestrian-focused walkways. (Courtesy GWWO Architects)

“We wanted our design to embody the excitement and wonder of moving through a garden,” said GWWO’s design principal Alan Reed. “By separating these structures and connecting them to the surrounding environment with carefully curated views, we can do so without upsetting the scale of the place or the sense of the majesty of the natural setting.”

The new Welcome Center at Heritage Museum & Gardens.
Expansive windows are oriented to provide views of the campus landscape. (Courtesy GWWO Architects)

The campaign is being led by Heritage Museums & Gardens Board of Trustees alongside several lead donors. The new Welcome Center will be built “entirely through philanthropy” according to Heritage’s website, which encourages horticulture lovers to donate to the cause.

Construction could be completed as early as 2025.