Essential Architecture-  London

The British Museum


Sir Robert Smirke Queen Elizabeth gallery by Norman Foster




1823 to 1847


Ionic columns NeoClassical




  The former British Library Reading Room (a favourite haunt of Karl Marx)
The central quadrangle of the British Museum in London was redeveloped to become the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, commonly referred to simply as the Great Court, during the late 1990s. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000. The court has a tessellated glass roof by Foster and Partners (Architects) and Buro Happold (Engineers) covering the entire court and surrounds the original circular British Museum Reading Room in the centre, now a museum. It is the largest covered square in Europe. The glass and steel roof is made up of 1,656 pairs of glass windowpanes; each of a unique shape because of the undulating nature of the roof.

Controversially, some of the stone in the court is from France, rather than being Portland Stone from southern England as agreed in the original contract with the masons.

Within the Great Court, there are shops and a café. It is deliberately open for longer that the British Museum itself. The court acts as a centrally linking point for the museum, somewhat like the Pyramid at the Louvre in Paris.