The world's first public national museum, the British Museum, was established in 1753 in Bloomsbury, London. Over time, its buildings were developed to accommodate the museum's growing collections. Inadequate exhibition space and scattered conservation facilities recently prompted the redevelopment of buildings in the north east corner of the site to provide a new gallery, conservation and science centre, collections management hub and storage.
Working directly with Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, we helped co-ordinate the brief and design for the 18,000 sq m purpose-built facility. To minimise impact, a significant proportion (about 60%) of the new building is located underground and its structural line steps back from adjacent properties. Surcharge loads were verified and stringent criteria employed in the sequencing of works to minimise vibration and avoid damage to the fabric, foundations or contents of neighbouring structures.
The 10,000 sq m substructure is arranged over four storeys with only one access point to maximise space on the restricted site. Secant pile walls have been installed up to a 15m excavated depth over the full area of the site using temporary props. The reinforced concrete structure was formed sequentially from basement to ground floor and movements monitored. To ease the transfer and security of collections during deliveries a new 120 sq m truck lift allows three 40 tonne lorries to be housed at any one time within the building.
The concrete-frame ground floor includes 1,100 sq m of column-free exhibition space with links with the museum's Great Court. Access points and links to other listed buildings are placed to minimise intervention. Four three-storey steel frame pavilions with precast plank floors sit atop the ground floor. The steel frame is exposed internally throughout the height of the superstructure and integrates with the architect-designed cast glass façade.