British Museum Great Court and the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre

Making history future-proof

Since opening its doors in 1759, the British Museum has continuously upgraded its premises. Back in 2000 we refurbished the Great Court, and we are proud to have now completed its largest ever project – the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (WCEC).

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British Museum Great Court and the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre Project summary

Client

The British Museum

Key partners

WCEC: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Davis Langdon LLP, Arup, Ramboll UK Ltd, Great Court: Foster and Partners, Buro Happold

Services provided

Construction, Construction management

Sectors

Arts and culture

Locations

UK - London and south-east England, UK and Europe

Project timeline

Start date
October 2009
End date
March 2015
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Project story

Having successfully teamed up with the British Museum on the Great Court well over a decade ago – appreciating the unique, sensitive needs of a cultural institution – in 2009 we were brought on board as the WCEC’s construction manager.

The WCEC presented a thrilling challenge. With more than 6.8 million visitors each year and an unparalleled world collection, shutting public spaces for renovation was simply unthinkable - meticulous planning was vital.

Using our expertise, the museum remained open and disruption was kept to a minimum. We embarked on weekly inspections, ensured vibration levels were safe and employed a drop reach excavator just out of sight – the first in the UK.

With sustainability and energy efficiency paramount, we sought to reduce carbon emissions not just in the WCEC, but throughout the entire Bloomsbury site.

Project stats

million+ museum visitors during WCEC construction
68% of the WCEC is below ground
6,000 steel sections make up Great Court roof

Points of note

World class facilities

The largest and most ambitious redevelopment in its 260-year history, the WCEC’s build reinforces the British Museum’s reputation as the world leader for culture, exhibitions and conservation. The sprawling 18,500 square metre centre combines a laboratory, logistics centre, temporary exhibitions gallery and 6,000 square metres of storage. Bringing all of this under one roof delivers a huge efficiency boost.

Going deeper underground

Almost 70% of the WCEC was housed below ground level. This involved going deep underground to excavate 15 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of material – 37,000 cubic metres in total.

Dizzying installation

3,312 panes of glass made up the iconic Great Court roof. To support construction, the dizzying installation required a 20m-high scaffold and 593 props.