Rievaulx Abbey Visitor Centre & Museum

An upgraded museum building to meet modern curatorial standards, encourage visitors into the ruins, and improve facilities.

About this project

A single piece of carved stone from the abbey ruins is presented within the glass window as a visual taster for what lies beyond. The new hall is formed in engineered glulam spruce timber, coloured with a translucent white coating. This colour unifies both the timber and adjacent internal finishes while still allowing the natural appearance of the frame timbers to be appreciated. Off-site fabrication solved the problems of a restricted site and tight programme over winter.  

The new structure presents a series of arches which respond to the view of the abbey ruins by gradually splaying to reveal views of the abbey ruins cretaing a visual relationship between the new visitor centre and the existing columns and arches that make up the ruins of the abbey.  

Both east and west gables of the visitor centre are entirely glazed, allowing the focus of the visitor centre to be oriented towards the ruins and museum. To further emphasis this view, the frames appear unconnected and free-standing. The frames are, however, structurally connected by structural crosslam timber sheeting at roof level and a perimeter edge beam which contains concealed lighting and services. 

Glass is used not only to allow natural light in but to clearly emphasise the structural frame internally and externally. Although the main internal views are orientated towards the ruins, there are discreet views to the terrace through slot windows which also cast and control direct sunlight. These slot windows visually take their cue from agricultural buildings.

The external form of the building is intended to echo the architecture of local timber agricultural buildings. To access the outside café terrace, a large glass screen can be fully slid back into a recess formed in the wall. Visitors can sit on a long oak bench under the timber entrance canopy as they rest or wait for friends. Large roof overhangs to all sides of the new part provide protection to both the building and visitor.

External timber surfaces were designed to blend in with the surrounding trees and natural setting. A palette of traditional and quality materials is used throughout including engineered timber, zinc and polished concrete.


2017 Wood Awards - Commercial & Leisure Winner

2017 RIBA Yorkshire Award

Further information


ImagesGiles Rocholl Photography

Key contacts


English Heritage


Simpson & Brown Architects

Structural Engineer

Dossor Group

Main Contractor

Simpson (York) Ltd

Timber Supplier

Cowley Timber & Partners

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