Proposals to transform the surroundings of Alfred Waterhouse’s Grade I-listed Natural History Museum have been lodged with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
The plans, drawn up by Niall McLaughlin Architects and landscape architect Kim Wilkie, incorporate a new street-level civic square, a cloistered courtyard, and ‘external galleries’, and are designed to take the museum experience beyond its indoor exhibition space.
McLaughlin and Wilkie were selected for the project following a design competition run by Malcolm Reading Consultants in 2014. The duo saw off BIG with Martha Schwartz Partners; Grant Associates with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios; Land Use Consultants with Design Engine; and Stanton Williams with landscape architects Bradley-Hole Schoenaich.
Under the new proposals, the courtyard and restaurant space would sit under the civic square and would also provide a new access route to the museum for pedestrians using the Exhibition Road Tunnel.
According to the museum, the tower element of its 1970s Palaeontology Building would be removed to provide ground-level access to the tunnel, and open up views of the original museum building from the east.
Before and after collage - NHM proposals May 2016
A design and access statement prepared for the scheme said more radical plans to create an underground access point for the Palaeontology Building were scrapped after it emerged that a World War II bunker underpinned part of its structure.
Other elements of the grounds redesign include the creation of outdoor galleries on a series of terraces near its western entrance, expected to explore topics such as food security and pollination. A replica of a diplodocus skeleton, cast in bronze, is also proposed.
Natural History Museum director Sir Michael Dixon said the grounds-transformation project was aimed at prioritising nature, and recognising the value of urban green spaces.
‘By creating an inspirational outdoor experience for all to enjoy, the living natural world becomes an integral part of visiting the museum for more than 5 million people a year,’ he said.
‘Expanding the museum experience beyond the galleries is part of a decade of transformation, as we work to challenge the way people think about nature and a sustainable future.’
Natural History Museum transformation
Source: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London