Top Ten Essential Architecture top ten London Museums  
     
The British compulsion to collect artifacts means that Britain has the best museums in the world - we had a whole empire to plunder. Below is a shortlist of the main museums, but whatever your interest, from 17th Century fans, to fan engines, there's a museum specifically catering to your taste. And virtually all of them are free....
  For a more complete list, see the main list  
1 The British Museum  

architect

Sir Robert Smirke Queen Elizabeth gallery by Norman Foster

location

London

date

1823 to 1847

style

Ionic columns NeoClassical

construction

stone

type

Museum

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.
 
     
2 The Victoria and Albert Museum  
052-Vicandal-sm.jpg (28421 bytes)

architect

 

location

on the corner of Cromwell Gardens and Exhibition Road in South Kensington, west London

date

1900

style

Victorian and Edwardian

construction

stone

type

Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A) is on the corner of Cromwell Gardens and Exhibition Road in South Kensington, west London, England. It specialises in applied and decorative arts.

The museum was established in 1852 as the South Kensington Museum under the control of the Science and Art Department, following the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Its first director was Sir Henry Cole, a utilitarian and joint organiser of the Great Exhibition who acquired some of the objects from the exhibition for the collection. Over the years the museum attracted many important collections to it. Originally, it contained both arts and sciences and was designed to inspire visitors with examples of achievement in both fields. It was believed at the time that this would help improve the tastes of consumers, manufacturers and designers, creating a virtuous circle that would benefit the culture and the economy.
 
     
3 Museum of Natural History  
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architect

Alfred Waterhouse

location

London

date

1860 to 1880

style

Victorian German Romanesque, Romanesque Revival 
Romanesque symmetrical facade. 

construction

iron frame, concrete vaults, terra cotta cladding

type

Museum

One of the grand Victorian museums of the 19th century, Alfred Waterhouse's Museum of Natural History had roots in designs by Sir Richard Owen, the museum's creator, and an 1864 competition won by Francis Fowke. The building integrates the romantic and the practical in an eclectic whole: German Romanesque stylistic use of dramatic arches and towers, decorated with a rich sculptural program of terra cotta, and a practical use of structural iron and contemporary mechanical systems.
 
     
4 The Tate Modern  
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architect

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Herzog & de Meuron

location

south bank of the Thames

date

1947-63, closed 1981. Museum 2000.

style

Art Deco 

construction

brick-clad steel, 200 m long, with a substantial central chimney of 99 m

type

Utility, Gallery
Bankside Power Station is located on the south bank of the Thames in the Bankside district of London. Since 2000 it has been used to house the Tate Modern art museum.

Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the building is brick-clad steel, 200 m long, with a substantial central chimney of 99 m. The height was limited to less than that of St Paul's Cathedral on the opposite side of the river.
 
     
5 The National Gallery  
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architect

William Wilkins, Sir John Taylor ,Robert Venturi

location

Trafalgar Square, London WC2 Nearest tube station(s) Charing Cross, Embankment, Leicester Square

date

1824

style

NeoClassical

construction

stone

type

Gallery

The National Gallery is an art gallery in London, located on the north side of Trafalgar Square. It houses Western European paintings from 1250 to 1900 from the national art collection of Great Britain. The collection of 2,300 paintings belongs to the British public, and entry to the main collection is free, although there are charges for entry to special exhibitions.
 
     
6 Imperial War Museum  
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architect

Sydney Smirke

location

Lambeth North

date

c. 1890

style

NeoClassical

construction

brick, stone

type

Museum

The Museum features military vehicles, weapons, war memorabilia, a library, a photographic archive, and an art collection. Items in the Museum are not necessarily British, and include other nations at war at the time, primarily France, the United States, Germany, Italy, and Russia. Its vast collection contains over 15,000 paintings, drawings, and sculptures, and over 30,000 posters. According to the Museum, its collection includes "objects ranging from aircraft, armoured fighting vehicles and naval vessels to uniforms, badges, personal equipment, and medals and decorations; documents, both British and foreign; printed books comprising a national reference library of over 155,000 items; 120 million feet of cine film and over 6,500 hours of video tape; over 6 million photographs and photographic negatives." The grandeur of its collection has transformed the museum into an archive and art museum, as well. Outside the main entrance of the museum are mounted two 15" naval guns from former Royal Navy warships. The left-hand gun was mounted in HMS Ramillies, a Revenge-class battleship, from 1916 to 1941. The right-hand gun was mounted in another Revenge-class battleship, HMS Resolution, from 1915 to 1938, and then in the monitor HMS Roberts, where it took part in the D-Day bombardments.
 
     
7 National Portrait Gallery  

architect

Ewan Christian, built by Shillitoe & Son

location

Trafalgar Square - St Martin's Place, WC2, England Nearest tube station(s) Charing Cross, Embankment, Leicester Square

date

1896

style

Neo-Renaissance NeoClassical

construction

stone

type

Gallery

The gallery opened to the public in 1856. It houses portraits of historically important and famous British people, selected on the basis of the significance of the sitter. The collection includes photographs and caricatures as well as paintings, drawings and sculpture. The National Portrait Gallery also houses the Chandos portrait, arguably the most famous portrait of William Shakespeare.
 
     
8 Tate Britain  

architect

Sidney R. J. Smith

location

Millbank, London SW1, England, United Kingdom (Pimlico tube station)

date

1897 as National Gallery of British Art; became Tate Britain in 2000

style

NeoClassical

construction

stone

type

Gallery

Tate Britain is a part of the Tate gallery network in Britain, along with Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. It is housed in the Tate's original premises on Millbank on the site of Millbank Prison. The front part of the building was designed by Sidney R. J. Smith with a classical portico and dome behind. Construction commenced in 1893 and the gallery originally opened on 21 July 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art. There have been several extensions over the years. The central sculpture gallery was designed by John Russell Pope. The gallery was renamed "Tate Britain",in March 2000 before the launch of Tate Modern. It is now dedicated to the display of historical and contemporary British art. It includes the Clore Gallery of 1987, designed by James Stirling, which houses work by J.M.W. Turner.
 
     
9 Soane Museum  

architect

Sir John Soane

location

13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP

date

1812 to 1834

style

Mannerist NeoClassical

construction

masonry 

type

House and Museum

Sir John Soane's Museum (often abbreviated to the Soane Museum) is a museum of architecture, and was formerly the house and studio of the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane. It holds many drawings and models of his projects and the collections of paintings, drawings and antiquities that he assembled. The Museum is located in the Holborn district of central London, England, overlooking Lincoln's Inn Fields.
 
     
10 Whitechapel Art Gallery  

architect

C. Harrison Townsend

location

1897 to 1901

date

Whitechapel, east London

style

Art Nouveau

construction

brick

type

Gallery

The distinctive façade of the Whitechapel Gallery, designed by C. Harrison Townsend.The Whitechapel Gallery, founded 1901, was one of the first publicly-funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in London. Located on Whitechapel High Street, Tower Hamlets, the Gallery has a strong track record for education and outreach projects, now focused on the Whitechapel area's Asian population. It exhibits the work of contemporary artists, as well as organizing retrospective exhibitions and shows that are of interest to the local community.
 
     
11 Dulwich Gallery  

architect

Sir John Soane

location

College Road, Dulwich, southeast London. Telephone: 0181-693-8000.

date

1811 to 1814

style

Electic NeoClassical

construction

masonry

type

Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery is an art gallery in Dulwich, London. It was the world's first purpose-built art gallery (the Foundling Hospital, which contained a permanent art exhibition, being primarily for another purpose) and opened in 1817. Its basic architecture of a series of interlinked rooms lit by overhead skylights has been the primary influence on art gallery design ever since.