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First peek at Rogers' emerging British Museum extension

These are the first shots of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ (RSH+P) £135 million extension to the British Museum which is currently under construction

Officially known as the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (WCEC), the scheme at the north-western corner of the Grade I-listed London landmark is due to complete early next year with the exhibitions gallery due to open in early March 2014.

The conservation studios, science laboratories, loans hub and stores will be fitted out and occupied by summer 2014.

According to the practice the scheme ‘will rationalise and greatly improve the museum’s operations on-site, and modernise facilities behind the scenes’.

Section - WCEC

Previous story (AJ 18.12.09)

Rogers’ British Museum proposals approved at second attempt

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ (RSHP) revised plans for a £135 million extension behind the British Museum were approved by Camden Council last night (17.12.09)

The authority’s planning committee voted nine to three in favour of the re-jigged proposals having previously refused the practice’s initial designs for the redevelopment of the north-western corner of the Grade I-listed London landmark (AJ 24.07.09).

Work could now start as early as next month (January 2010) on the five-pavilion ‘World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre’ development, which was partially sunk underground to address concerns about the impact of the original scheme on the existing building and surrounding conservation area.

A ‘delighted’ spokeswoman for the museum said: ‘[This] building will ensure the British Museum can meet its fundamental obligations of preserving, researching, displaying and lending this unparallelled collection for future generations. [It] will ensure the British Museum remains one of the world’s leading museums, a civic space serving a local, national and international audience.’

It is understood the museum has already secured two thirds of the funding needed to construct the building, which is scheduled to open in 2013.
Previous story (AJ 14.12.09)

Rogers’ revised British Museum plan set for approval

Camden Council’s planning officers have recommended the green light for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ revised £135 million extension behind the British Museum

However, the latest officer backing for the ‘well-thought out’ scheme to redevelop the north-western corner of the Grade I-listed London landmark is no guarantee the councillors on the authority’s planning committee will also vote to support the proposals (see right for full agenda for meeting scheduled for Thursday, 17 December).

Earlier in the year (July), the elected members unexpectedly decided to reject the practice’s initial attempt, damning its ‘excessive bulk, scale [and] massing’ and claiming it ‘would be harmful to the listed buildings’ and ‘detract from the character and appearance of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area’.

The practice has since revised its scheme, submerging one of the five pavilions to address issues with light into the museum’s Arched Reading Room and increasing the space between each block from 2m to 3m.

CABE and English Heritage have also given their support for the amended designs, though it is understood the Georgian Society, Camden Civic Society and Ancient Monuments Society are among those to have lodged objections.

Previous Story (AJ 26.11.09)

CABE throws weight behind revised British Museum plans

CABE has again backed Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ (RSHP) attempts to build a £135 million extension behind the British Museum in London

The government’s design watchdog praised the practice’s original scheme to redevelop the North Western corner of the Grade I-listed landmark (click here for the first review panel report) before those designs were controversially thrown out by Camden Council’s planning committee in July this year.

Having seen the reworked proposals - featuring five-pavilions, including one which is now underground - the commission said it ‘continued to support the design team’s intelligent response to this difficult brief’.

The panel commented: ‘The relationship between the existing building and the extension has been well resolved; particularly the differences in levels between various parts of both building have been dealt with in a skillful manner to allow seamless circulation of people from the Great Court to the new exhibition spaces.’

However CABE did add a cautionary note and raised concerns about the detailed design of the proposed elevation onto Montague Place, saying: ‘[The] detailed composition of this façade could be improved and we suggest exploring a design which responds more subtly to the massive corner of the existing building and which manages to establish a successful interaction between the tower, the metal clad fin of the proposed main elevation and the solid nature of the King Edward building.’

Click here to read the latest report.

The scheme is expected to come before the council’s planning committee again in mid-December.

Previous story (AJ 24.09.09)

Revealed: Rogers’ new look British Museum extension

This is the first image of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ (RSHP) reworked designs for an extension to the British Museum, London - part of which is now underground

The original proposal (see pictures right) for a £135 million, five-pavilion development behind the Grade I-listed landmark was unexpectedly turned down in July.

RSHP has since come back with amended plans which include sinking one of the pavilions below ground to allow more light into the museum’s Arched Reading room.

Previous story (AJ 17.09.09)

Rogers goes underground with British Museum Mark II

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) has reworked its design for an extension to the British Museum in London after its original proposal (pictured here) was unexpectedly refused in July

The revised scheme has been partially sunk underground in response to concerns that the £135 million, five-pavilion development would block the window into the Grade I-listed landmark’s Arched Reading Room.

The change means 20 per cent of the new central London facility will be submerged.

Spaces between the block have also been widened from 2m to 3m in a bid to appease Camden Council’s planning committee.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: ‘The developments address the issues raised, but do not compromise delivery of the essential facilities necessary to ensure the museum can meet its present and future obligations to the collection and to its visitors.’

But Hero Granger-Taylor, representing Camden Civic Society on the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee, said: ‘I would have been much happier if they had gone to a new architect. A different firm would have helped the museum to look radically at its brief.’

Granger-Taylor added: ‘But I am also relieved we are not going to an inquiry. Although they would have been very unlikely to have won on appeal, it would have been a terrible amount of extra work for us tired-out voluntary bodies.’

A public exhibition of the new proposals, which RSHP hopes to re-submit to Camden Council shortly, will take place at the British Museum’s upper floor, off Room 66, between 25-28 September.

Exact details of the revised plan

- One of the pavilions has been submerged underground, ensuring no impact on the view from the Arched Reading Room and substantially reducing the impact of views from the Bedford Square properties. This architectural response will, in many ways, be beneficial for the scientific research facilities housed in the pavilion, given their need for closely-controlled environments with levels of isolation away from any form of vibration. Large rooflights will ensure that daylight can penetrate into the upper floors of the scientific research facilities. This change means that over 20 per cent of the mass of the facility above ground in the previous application has been submerged.

- The remaining spaces between the above-ground pavilions have been increased in width from 2m to 3m, which, in the case of the three central pavilions means that considerably more day light will be able to reach windows facing on to the new building from the North Range. However, this reduction in width has resulted in a loss of 70m² from the special Exhibitions gallery.

Previous story (AJ 24.07.09)

Shock refusal for Rogers’ British Museum extension

Camden Council has unexpectedly rejected Richard Rogers’ £135 million British Museum extension project

The North Western development of the central London landmark, by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP), was turned down by the borough’s planning committee on 23 July by five votes to four – but the exact reasons for the refusal remain unclear.

Speaking during a lengthy debate about the 17,000m² project facing Montagu Place, Lib Dem councillor Paul Braithwaite said:‘We seem to be piggy-backing in an absolutely huge over-development.’

He added: ‘This is over-development in a most dramatic fashion and I will be voting against it.’

The five-pavilion scheme at the rear of the museum had been recommended for approval by planning officers.

However, fellow Lib Dem councillor David Abrahams, who also voted against the application, said the scheme ‘encroached too closely on the existing buildings’.

Lighting in the Grade-I listed museum’s Arched Room was the subject of a protracted discussion with members grilling project architect Graham Stirk who attended the meeting.

‘It would have been an easier decision had RSHP come up with a better facade,’ said Lib Dem councillor Russell Eagling, who voted for the proposal which the practice has been working on since winning a high-profile competition in May 2007.

Meanwhile Hugh Cullen of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee said the proposal ‘frankly mutilates the museum’.

Speaking about the specific grounds for the knock back, Ed Watson, the assistant director for planning and public protection at Camden Council advised the committee that officers would draft full reasons for refusal based on the points members raised when rejecting the scheme.

He said these would have to be brought back to the next committee for agreement prior to the decision being sent.

A statement released by the British Museum confirmed that it would wait until the official justification for the refusal was made clear before deciding on a way forward.

It read: ‘The Committee have not yet provided their formal reasons for refusal and in light of this information we shall consider our next steps as a matter of priority. The need for the benefits the scheme would provide has not gone away.

‘We thought we had made a compelling case which drew a balance between our responsibility to our great buildings, the historic environment, the Museum’s collection and the public benefits that would flow from this scheme. The case was supported by English Heritage and CABE.’

News of the rejection comes just days after doubts emerged over the proposed government funding for the project.

July 5 postcript: Camden Council’s official reasons for refusal

RESOLVED –

THAT planning permission, listed building consent and conservation area consent be refused for the following reasons:-

1.           The proposed development, by virtue of its excessive bulk, scale, massing, site coverage and detailed design, would be harmful to the listed buildings, fail to respect the setting of the listed buildings and would detract from the character and appearance of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area, contrary to policies B1 (General design principles), B3 (Alterations and Extensions), B6 (Listed buildings) and B7 (Conservation areas) of the London Borough of Camden Unitary Development Plan 2006.

2.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure pedestrian and environmental improvements, would be likely to contribute unacceptably to use of non-sustainable modes of transport contrary to policy T1 (Sustainable Transport) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and to advice contained in Camden Planning Guidance 2006.

3.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure a green travel plan, would be likely to contribute unacceptably to use of non-sustainable modes of transport contrary to policy T1 (Sustainable Transport) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and to advice contained in Camden Planning Guidance 2006.

4.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure contributions to carry out associated highways works would be likely to harm the Borough’s transport infrastructure, contrary to policy SD2 (Planning Obligations) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and to advice contained in the Camden Planning Guidance 2006.

5.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure submission and implementation of a construction management plan, would be likely to contribute unacceptably to traffic disruption and dangerous situations for pedestrians and other road users, and be detrimental to the amenities of the area generally, contrary to policies T12 (Works Affecting Highways) and SD8B (Disturbance from demolition and construction) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and to advice contained in the Camden Planning Guidance 2006.

6.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure submission and implementation of a servicing management plan, would be likely to contribute unacceptably to traffic disruption and dangerous situations for pedestrians and other road users, contrary to policy T12 (Works Affecting Highways) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and to guidance within Camden Planning Guidance 2006.

7.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure replacement tree planting on Montague Place would harm the character and appearance of the conservation area and fail to conserve biodiversity in accordance with the requirements of policies B1, B7, N5 and N8 of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and the advice contained in Camden Planning Guidance 2006

8.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure appropriate biodiversity enhancement measures would fail to enhance biodiversity in the in accordance with the requirements of policy N5 of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and the advice contained in Camden Planning Guidance 2006

9.           The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement requiring for the development to achieve a BREEAM rating of ‘very good’ and for the sustainability measures detailed for the north-west development and the site wide energy strategy, would fail to be sustainable in its use of resources, contrary to policy SD9 (Resources and Energy) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and to advice contained in Camden Planning Guidance 2006.

10.      The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure local labour and procurement would fail to contribute towards the creation of local employment and business opportunities which reinforce neighbourhood renewal objectives and improve sustainability of the local economy, contrary to policy SD2 (Planning Obligations) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006 and to advice contained in the Camden Planning Guidance 2006.

Listed Building Consent:                         2009/1762/L

1.           The proposed alterations to the listed building are considered harmful to its special architectural and historic interest and the merits of the scheme are not considered to outweigh this harm. As such they are contrary to policy B6 (Listed Buildings) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006.

2.           The proposed development, by virtue of its excessive bulk, scale, massing, site coverage and inappropriate detailed design, would detract from the special architectural and historic importance of the listed building and its setting contrary to policy B6 (Listed buildings) of the London Borough of Camden Unitary Development Plan 2006.

Conservation Area Consent:      2009/1763/C

1.           The demolition of the unlisted buildings, in the absence of an approved scheme for their replacement would be likely to result in harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding Conservation Area contrary to policies B7 (Conservation areas) of the London Borough of Camden Replacement Unitary Development Plan 2006.

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