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Design Plans for British Museum's New Development Revealed
View of the British Museum's facade from the North East.
LONDON.- The British Museum has revealed the designs for its forthcoming development project in advance of a planning application to Camden Council in April 2009. The £135 million development has been designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) and will be the largest development onsite since the Great Court opened in 2000. Subject to planning permission, the new development will open in late 2012.

This project will ensure the Museum maintains its position as a leading institution for the study of human culture, in London, in Britain and the World through an upgrade of key facilities. The development will address urgent needs in terms of the Museum’s infrastructure and will provide a new exhibition space, state-of-the-art conservation and science laboratories and studios, world-class accommodation for the study collection, as well as facilities to support its extensive UK and international loan programme. It will allow the Museum to enhance the exhibition experience, to lend more of the collection and most importantly will continue to preserve the collection for future generations.

The Museum has a rich architectural heritage, the site has developed and grown at each stage of its history. This development will transform an under-utilised section of the site in the north west of the Museum, situated adjacent to the impressive King Edward VII Building which was completed in 1914. The challenge for the architects was to produce an elegant design that expresses the contemporary role and international standing of the Museum but executed in a manner which takes its cue from the Museum’s own institutional and architectural legacy. The design incorporates five linked pavilions (with connection points to the main Museum building), covering 17,000m2 with facades in glass and stone, making a visual link to the King Edward Building. Each building will operate on seven levels, including three underground storage basements.

Prior to submitting the planning application, the Museum has been engaged in an extensive programme of consultation on the project with Camden Council, planning bodies, conservation groups and local businesses and residents. The consultation process has been very beneficial, with comments from stakeholders leading to an improved design concept for the project. English Heritage have declared their support for the development, commenting that the ‘proposals have the potential to provide a first-class architectural response to the aim of achieving the Museum’s objectives, set out in its masterplan’. The pre-application consultation process will continue with a public exhibition at the Museum in early April.

Funding for the project is well underway with £90 million of the total already raised. This has come from a variety of sources, including the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The Museum is confident it can raise the remaining funds to complete the project.

The development aims to be as energy efficient as possible, the placement of the different functions has been carefully considered to minimise energy consumption. Zero carbon technologies will be incorporated into the building through the use of roof-mounted photovoltaic cells, and ground source heat transfer will also be employed in the basement walls to mitigate heat loss and provide cooling to upper floors. The electric lighting-system will automatically dim or turn off where and when there is adequate daylight to illuminate the space. The development will form part of a site-wide strategy to reduce energy consumption.

Andrew Burnett, Deputy Director of the British Museum said "The development will be a hugely significant project with multiple benefits for the public, the collection and for staff. It will enable the Museum to show more, lend more and preserve more of its collection for the benefit of current and future generations."

Graham Stirk, Project Director, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, said: "Our proposal for the redevelopment of the north-west corner will provide a flexible series of spaces which support the wide range of activities undertaken by the British Museum. We have introduced five linked pavilions which complement the solid, formal identity of the existing Grade I listed buildings, as well as responding to the structural rhythm of the adjacent King Edward VII building. This design will be highly adaptable to the Museum’s changing requirements over time."






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