Like middle Englanders determined to outdo the Jones' across the street, London's cultural institutions have caught extension fever. Pictures of a proposed £135 million addition to the British Museum have been released by the architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners. If approved, the new building should open in late 2012.
Though less cocky than the Tate's Bankside behemoth, the new wing, at the northwest corner of the Museum, comprises five linked pavilions across 17,000 square metres. The pavilions, each seven stories high, will house conservation work, scientific labs, logistics, and, most significantly for visitors, plenty of new exhibition space. Given that the Museum is now Britain's most popular cultural attraction, and blockbuster shows like China's First Emperor have a habit of selling out quickly, the need for additional space is evident.
A word about that price tag: it's thought most of the cash has already been found. £22.5 million has been given by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, while an anonymous donor has given a huge individual contribution, meaning that just £45 million is left to find — a sum the museum is confident it can raise.
A planning application will be submitted to Camden council this week. Should it be approved, it'll be the second time the British Museum has had a facelift from a world-famous architect, following Norman Foster's Great Court. With all this cosmetic surgery, is the BM in danger of becoming the Michael Jackson of London landmarks?
A model of the proposed extension will be on display at the Museum from Friday.