“The British Museum to-day applied for planning consent for a substantial new complex in the North West corner of its Bloomsbury site. Normally this would be cause for celebration, but its bloated design brief and inappropriate architects have become a lethal combination, causing dismay amongst the Museum's supporters,” reads the release. “They believe that the proposal is far too big for its confined location, and needlessly damages - or literally obliterates - some stunning external facades and gallery interiors.”
Responding to the release the British Museum advise that changes have already been made to the design following a public consultation: “The British Museum has consulted widely on the scheme and as a result of this consultation made a number of changes to the proposals before the application for planning consent was filed. We are delighted that the scheme is supported by English Heritage and other key bodies. RSH+P have produced an elegant design which expresses the contemporary role of the Museum executed in a manner which takes its cue from the Museum's own institutional and architectural legacy,” reads their response.
The project will be the largest development onsite since the Great Court opened in 2000. In pre-planning, English Heritage 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 design incorporates five linked pavilions (with connection points to the main Museum building), covering 17,000 sq m 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.
Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources, including the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Subject to planning permission, the new development will open in late 2012.
Niki May Young