Niall McLaughlin Architects has won the high-profile competition to ‘re-imagine’ the grounds around London’s Natural History Museum
The practice – working with Kim Wilkie – saw off rival bidders including Stirling Prize-winner Stanton Williams to be ‘unanimously’ selected for the new public realm around Alfred Waterhouse’s grade I-listed museum.
Other practices on the five-strong shortlist included Grant Associates with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and international practice BIG with Martha Schwartz Partners.
The full shortlist
- BIG with Martha Schwartz Partners
- Grant Associates with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
- Niall McLaughlin Architects with Kim Wilkie
- Land Use Consultants with Design Engine
- Stanton Williams Architects with Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape Architects
Selected from more than 40 entries, the teams were asked to come up with an ‘innovative exterior setting’ for the 1881 landmark.
Niall McLaughlin with Kim Wilkie was unanimously selected by the competition jury which included former cabinet minister Michael Portillo and Capco deputy chair Ian Henderson.
Henderson said: ‘The challenge was to find a team which would consider the changing nature of the Museum, a team who would think holistically, both spatially and intellectually, considering the Museum and the Grounds together. Niall McLaughlin Architects did this brilliantly.’
Niall McLaughlin said: ‘We are delighted to have won this significant commission, particularly given the high quality of the work by all of the shortlisted candidates. The Natural History Museum offers the opportunity for us to reflect upon the relationship between an important building and the natural landscape that surrounds it.
‘We look forward to deepening our understanding of the natural world and thinking about how the public will access this knowledge in the future’
Competition organiser Malcolm Reading, said: ‘All of the teams should be congratulated for rising to the challenge set by the competition. This was reflected in both the quality of their submissions, as well as the vitality of their presentations.
‘But in the end it was Niall McLaughlin’s proposal which reflected the real wants and needs of visitors whilst also being sensitive to the significance of this key site. They will now take their initial concept and work closely with the Museum to develop it further.’
The major project will see the grounds of the existing 1881 building, designed by RIBA Royal Gold Medallist Alfred Waterhouse, revamped to create an ‘innovative exterior setting’.
In 2009, CF Møller added the £78 million Darwin Centre extension to the museum, which houses 70 million natural history specimens and six million rare books and artworks. Two years later Dixon Jones completed a ground-breaking shared surface revamp of the neighbouring Exhibition Road (AJ 09.12.11).