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Ritchie to aid British Museum as the Great Court comes under fire


The British Museum has appointed Ian Ritchie Architects to act as a spatial adviser amid growing concern over the effect Foster and Partners' Great Court has had on the rest of the museum.

The London-based Royal Academician will advise the museum's planning committee on 'enabling the museum to get a fresh perspective on key issues covering both public and behind-the-scenes areas'.

Ritchie said he was excited to be taking on the role, adding that he was pleased to be able to work within Foster's Stirling Prize-shortlisted project.

'The director is rethinking the philosophy of the museum's place in the world and wants me to help him with that, ' Ritchie told the AJ. 'There is a need to get an internal strategy for the spaces.

'Inevitably the Great Court has created certain advantages and disadvantages for the museum that need to be worked through, ' he added.

The appointment comes as Foster's immense roof has come under increasing fire from the museum fraternity. The director of the National Portrait Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith, warned in a recent article in trade magazine Museum Practice that the effects of the roof are now being felt.

'When the Great Court opened at the British Museum everyone was overwhelmed by the quality of the architectural experience - the sweep of the roof and the sensational sense of scale.

'But now I hear more complaints that it sucks the life out of the surrounding galleries, ' he wrote.

And the roof has suffered further criticism from other museum experts. 'It doesn't help the galleries at all, ' said Peter Higgins, creative director of Land Design Studio. 'The essence of the museum has not been improved and the experience of visitors has not been enhanced. I especially dislike the cafes squashed into the side of the Great Court.'

However, the British Museum's deputy director, Dawn Eastwick, insisted Ritchie's appointment was part of a bigger review. 'The British Museum is delighted to have Ian Ritchie on board to advise on our space planning. We hope to benefit greatly from his expertise and ideas, ' she said.

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