British Museum WCEC
The World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre will house a new special exhibitions gallery as well as state-of-the-art conservation studios and science laboratories, storage areas to rehouse large parts of the museum collection currently housed off-site and a purpose-built logistics hub to support its extensive UK and international loans programme.
The challenge was to produce a design that both expresses the contemporary role and world-class standing of the British Museum and also responds to the wider institutional and architectural legacy of this Grade I listed building. The result is a series of four linked pavilions – each of five storeys above basement level – connecting to the main Museum and designed to optimise daylight reaching the existing North Range and King Edward VII buildings.The stone and glass façades of the pavilions make a visual link to the neighbouring, imposing King Edward VII building through both the structural rhythm and the horizontal coursing of the cast glasswhile the mass and height of the pavilions provide a sympathetic transition to the domestic scale of the predominantly 18th century properties in the neighbouring streets. A fifth pavilion – containing scientific research facilities – is submerged below ground.
Each building will include three levels of below ground storage, except in the case of the submerged pavilion where all levels are underground. The design distances the new building from the listed façades with minimal interventions in the existing fabric, while creating a solid visual aesthetic that complements the King Edward VII Building.The team worked to apply an order to the otherwise disparate and complex nature of the site and surrounding context,; the linked pavilions are consistent in height with the North Range and one storey lower than the King Edward VII building.Materials have been chosen to echo those of the existing building.
The new facilities will improve existing conditions for the Museum’s staff and collection as well as allowing an increase in gallery circulation and permeability across the entire site.
The mass and height of the pavilions provide a transition from the institutional scale of the King Edward VII Building to the domestic scale of the properties in Bedford Square and Gower Street.
The extension to the museum aims to resolve the fractured geometries through the placement of the stair cores to bridge the difference between the building line of the King Edward VII Building and the alignment of the Bedford Square/Green Street terraces six metres further forward.
The use of Portland Stone echoes the materiality of the existing Museum building whilst maintaining a contemporary language of design.