Hugh Broughton Architects’ additions to the Henry Moore Foundation make a welcoming threshold to the world of the great sculptor, finds Edmund Fowles


Edmund Fowles

Hufton & Crow 

The Henry Moore Foundation, established by the sculptor and his family in 1977, is located in the quiet hamlet of Perry Green, a clutch of vernacular buildings in the Hertfordshire countryside. Moore moved to Hoglands with his wife Irina in 1940 after their Hampstead home was bombed. Initially he could only afford to rent part of the house, but as his reputation and the scale of his work grew, he acquired, adapted and built his own impromptu additions to the site, which now extends to 28 hectares.

The artist Richard Wentworth worked for Moore in 1967 and recalls his exhilaration at this accumulation of studios of varying types. The largest of these bricolage enclosures, known as the ‘greenhouse’, is an imaginative assembly of slotted steel and clear plastic, built for the production of large international works. Moore delighted in explaining it was the maximum size for a ‘temporary’ structure, meaning he didn’t have to pay rates on it. Despite Moore’s tremendous success, he lived frugally; most of his money went towards the work itself, and later to endowing the foundation.


Visiting Perry Green today remains an entrancing experience. Lambs nestle beneath the quiet gravity of hollowed, hewn bronze works. Visible from Moore’s own desk in one studio, ‘Sheep Piece’ is rooted in the near landscape, burnished by years of enquiring sheep. Though just 27 miles from London, the gently undulating landscape is redolent of Moore’s Yorkshire birthplace, as if the sculptor had modeled the land itself for his own purpose.

The studios and gardens at Perry Green were left in trust to the foundation after Moore’s death in 1986 and later opened to the public. With visitor numbers soaring, however, provision for them and for staff was in need of modernisation. The original shop and ticket office were in the ground floor of a small terraced house over the road from the garden, and food was sold from an improvised kiosk with only outdoor seating. The foundation’s chief operating officer, Lesley Wake, recalls that visitors often mistook her ground-floor office in Dane Tree House for the ticket desk.


In 2007 Hugh Broughton Architects (HBA) was commissioned to prepare a masterplan for an improved visitor centre, an enhanced archive and new sculpture stores. It was tasked with providing improved visitor experience and world-class art-handling facilities, but limited to the re-use of and addition to the existing range of buildings, due to the site’s sensitivity. Perhaps a greater challenge was how to reconcile the informal qualities of the site – the rambling character resulting from Moore’s parsimoniousness – with the twenty-first-century demands of museum standards, ‘Known Consigner’ status and the associated stringent security and environmental requirements.

The primary move of HBA’s masterplan sees the shift of the main visitor entrance to Dane Tree House, a more instinctively appropriate location, offering direct access to the gardens. Elmwood House to the north has also been substantially renovated and extended to accommodate the archive.

Standing in Perry Green, the cluster of historic buildings somehow belie Moore’s epoch. An archive photo of Moore and Mies van der Rohe standing outside the newly completed Neue Nationalgalerie in 1968, discussing where to position a substantial bronze work, ‘The Archer’, is a vivid reminder of Moore’s preeminent modernism.

Broughton’s reworking of Dane Tree is announced by a low, pavilion-like canopy that encircles the old house, bringing a calm order and unifying identity to the gabled form and its adjoining outbuildings; a tacit reference to the ‘International Style’ of Moore’s time. The move creates a strong legibility to the approach and entrance sequence, with visitors arriving beneath a generous cantilevered canopy. Broughton has avoided a more outwardly crafted, vernacular language in favour of a distinct and identifiable architecture, taking care to avoid conflict between the material palette and surface richness of Moore’s work.

Entering the building, one is immediately drawn towards the south, passing through the old footprint of Dane Tree House – which now houses the ticket desk and shop – and toward a generous new cafe and orientation room overlooking the gardens.

The material palette is muted, conveying a sense of quiet solidity, and sometimes ambiguity as the grey stained sweet chestnut cladding discloses its faint grain only on close inspection. Glulam columns and timber window frames are also washed in a grey stain that permeates the identity of the pavilion. All serve to reinforce the discrete effectiveness and functionality of the Centre. Handsomely proportioned doors and a seamless threshold invite visitors to discover Moore’s richly laden gardens and studios beyond, framing the little orchard that inspired so many of his sketch studies.

The continuation of the canopy to the south provides another welcoming vantage point. From Hoglands, just over the garden wall, the interaction of this long, low canopy is extremely well judged, hovering delicately as the wall gently falls with the landscape, but retaining visibility of the original gable of Dane Tree House above. A flourish of formal exuberance lends expression to the south-west elevation, where this lower canopy ‘wraps’ to become a first-floor roof over curators’ offices, a motif that recalls Broughton’s more high-tech work on polar research stations, and a brief interruption to the otherwise calm clarity of the pavilion.


The new archive has been tucked carefully out of sight from the lane, veiled by the silhouette of Elmwood House. Glimpsed from the visitor centre entrance, the Corten steel-clad building sits vividly against a backdrop of deciduous trees, enhanced by its slight elevation. HBA’s restraint here lends further sophistication; the blank enigmatic form rests provocatively in the landscape, recalling the positioning of Moore’s bronzes, often set upon mounds. The only fenestration to break the silence of the elevation signifies a spectacular oak-lined reading room, in which researchers can delve into an archive boasting some 750,000 artefacts.

While the project’s technical sophistication and build cost may be at odds with the spirit of Moore’s improvised constructions (sculptures in the garden still rest on black-painted breezeblock plinths), his generous socialism and ambition to improve the visibility of the arts would undoubtedly chime with what the foundation and HBA have achieved at Perry Green; a facility that will allow far greater understanding and enjoyment of Moore’s legacy and work.

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Hugh Broughton Architects
Structural engineer
Price & Myers
Services engineer
Harley Haddow
Quantity surveyor
CGC Projects
Pritchard Themis
The Landscape Agency
Main contractor
RG Carter Southern

Corten cladding
Timber windows
Cappoferri Serramenti
Resin floor
Sphere 8