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The British Museum, Great Court

During 1999 and 2000 H&H completed extensive work in both The Reading Room and Weston Hall, a main entrance to the museum. The Reading Room, built in 1857, stands at the heart of the Museum, in the centre of the Great Court. Weston Hall is a busy entrance to the museum. Both were designed by Sydney Smirke, who took over from his brother, Sir Robert Smirke, in 1845. The restoration of both areas was made possible by a £20m donation from the Weston Foundation.

The Reading Room:

As part of the Great Court development the interior of the Reading Room was carefully restored. The scale of the project was huge, the height from floor to apex of dome is 33 metres (106 feet) with a diameter of 43 metres (140 feet). In comparison, the diameter of St. Paul’s Cathedral is 34 metres (112 feet). This restoration process saw the papier mâché interior of the dome repaired and the original blue, cream and gold colour scheme reinstated. Over 2 tons of paint was used to redecorate the Reading Room’s dome.

Weston Hall Entrance:

On 19 April 1847 the Hall was officially opened and won much praise. A periodical, The Builder, approved of the ‘modern’ colour scheme, stating:

‘…the polychrome enrichments have been applied with very considerable success. The sunk panels are blue, with a yellow star in each; the enrichments are variously coloured, red and white predominating, and the stiles, beams, etc., are covered with frets, guilloche, and scrolls, in the flat colours, for all of which precedents were sought in the Museum collection.’

The original stonework has all survived to this day, and the original 1847 decorative scheme by Collman and Davies was restored by Hare & Humphreys in 1999-2000.

Client:

The British Museum

Services:

British Museum Entrance Weston Hall – investigation, original design revelation and implementation, painting, gilding. B.M. Reading Room – repair specification and design together with original decoration revelation and direction. painting, gilding

Awards:

RIBA Building Quality Awards 2003; Civic Trust Award 2003; National Heritage Museum of the Year Award 2000.

Recent Press: