The amazing new British Museum Extension designed by architects Rogers, Stirk, Harbours and Partners (RSHP) was a huge project just off Russell Square. The excavation went down three levels to accommodate the three basement storage levels, there were then six levels on top of this for the plant spaces, workshop areas, offices and special exhibition halls. These special exhibition halls needed to be able to be divided up in any particular manner so each space would have its own unique lighting and sound.
Every aspect about the RHSP architectural design took the aesthetic in to account. Down in the basement storage areas where all services were exposed The British Museum were very aware that many TV programmes follow esteemed presenters to look at stored artefacts, the services, therefore, needed to look perfect as well as be functional. We also had to model the fire suppressant system which was dry pipe only filled by an emergency pump in case of a fire and dispensed a fine spray.
RHSP has also included some of the services to form the aesthetic in display areas. As their vision of how services should look differed to how services are practically manufactured and installed we had to develop solutions that were architecturally acceptable.
The exhibition halls were also a challenge as these large spaces had feature ceilings and services could only be run in certain zones but still needed to be distributed across the hall to allow individual areas to be stand-alone display areas with lighting, projection and audio.
This project ran over two years with weekly design meetings with Arup, RHSP and the rest of the design team.
The storage vaults now fulfil their purpose of providing all the storage required in an environment that looks the part when seen in the many documentaries with scenes shot in there.
Working with the architectural ambition that RHSP has was challenging both internally and externally.
The result is an absolutely world class display area for one of the world most iconic centres of cultural understanding and learning.