Proposals to transform the surroundings of Alfred Waterhouse’s Grade I-listed Natural History Museum have been approved by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
The plans, drawn up by Níall McLaughlin Architects and landscape architect Kim Wilkie, incorporate a new street-level civic square, a cloistered entrance from the existing South Kensington pedestrian tunnel and a series of ‘external galleries’.
There are also plans for a new bronze cast of Dippy – the museum’s diplodocus skeleton cast – to sit in one of the gardens following the original’s removal from Hintze Hall (see AJ 02.02.15).
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 architect Bradley-Hole Schoenaich.
Under the proposals, the courtyard and restaurant space will sit under the civic square and 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 will be removed to provide ground-level access to the tunnel and to open up views of the original museum building from the east.
A spokesperson for Níall McLaughlin Architects said: ‘[This] project will greatly improve access to the museum, reducing queues while turning the currently fragmented outdoor space into a series of open-air galleries that put the living world centre stage for any visit to the museum. Twenty per cent more of the museum’s 5 million visitors will be able to engage with, be inspired by, and learn from nature in a unique and iconic urban setting.’
Before and after collage - NHM proposals May 2016
The project team
Architects and lead consultant Níall McLaughlin Architects
Landscape architect (concept) Kim Wilkie
Landscape architect (technical) Wilder Associates
Structural engineer Expedition Engineering
Environmental engineer Atelier Ten
Heritage consultant Purcell
Communications designer Thomas Matthews
Access consultant Jane Toplis Associates
CDM adviser Turner & Townsend/HCD Group
Client Natural History Museum
Project manager Equals Consulting/Artelia Group
Planning consultant Deloitte Real Estate
Quantity surveyor Turner & Townsend/Artelia Group
Fire engineer BB7
Natural History Museum transformation
Source: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London