The Great Court
Spencer de Grey (Foster + Partners)


The British Museum Today

©Foster & Partners

I would like to talk about our work at the British Museum which is an immensely exciting project, which arose out of an international competition that the British Museum held in the Spring of 1994. And we were delighted to hear, after having been short-listed, that in July 1994 we were selected as architects for the project. The British Museum is one of the great museums of the world, an extraordinary institution, founded as a result of public lottery money in the middle of the 18th century and occupying some of the finest neo-classical buildings in London designed by Smirke between 1820 and 1850. It has a wonderful forecourt by which you approach it from Bloomsbury and Covent Garden to the south of the great portico. It is one of the most visited museums in the world; people come from all comers of the earth to see its great treasures that have been collected over the two and a half centuries it's been in existence. And when you look at museums like the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, you can see that the British Museum in comparison attracts around six and a half million people a year compared with about 4.9 million a year at the Louvre and 4.7 million at the Metropolitan. So it's very much a world leader and it instils huge enthusiasm and excitement in the people who visit it.


Stairs To Entrance Hall

©British Museum

When you move in through the great portico to the entrance hall, you're immediately struck by two things. One, of course, is the very fine handsome neo-classical interior. Smirke's original entrance hall and the great staircase that takes you up to the upper level of galleries.

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