Book Review: The Great Court at the British Museum @Prestel_UK0
The British Museum iconic architecture has a fascinating historical story that is brought to life with this incredibly detailed biography.
The introduction is provided by both of the modern architects who were the geniuses behind the building as we see it today: the light courtyard that is now the heart of the museum.
Instantly, Norman transports us almost directly into his thought-process on how he, with Deyan Sudjic, created the magnificent design. He reminds us that the original design of the British Museum was only meant to hold 100,000 visitors whereas today it is the second busiest museum (Louve being the first) in the world with an average of six million visitors per year.
The book describes the creation of not just the great court, but the background on the collection and how the collections growth dictated the buildings need to morph into the functional structure we know today.
Every sentence connected to the next – slowly building on this history. You literary can not stop yearning to learn more.
Learning how the building was not looked at as a building, but as a part of the Central London masterplan was beyond fascinating.
‘There are interesting parallels between Trafalgar Square and the British Museum as they were and as they have been reinvent. In both cases, people were once forced to circulate around the edges of an underused or inaccessible space. In the square it was the narrow pavement next to the traffic; in the museum it was through the perimeter galleries. The design solutions in each case opened up a new heart, with the possibility of diagonal movement and urban shortcuts.
The graphics and illustrations are captivating. We are shown comparisons not just of old and new, but of changes over time dating back to 1754 to 2000 when the Great Court was opened. Seeing the time lapse, and reading the historical content of the modifications as it morphed into the grandeur we know today is remarkable.
The Great Court, while mesmerizing on its own, seems to deepen its spellbinding allure when you see close up on the shadows and dimensions created throughout the day as the sun drifts over the great dome.
While some aspects were probably better for those interested in architecture, the writing wasn’t overly sophiscated to the novice. Indeed, I would say it was written sympathetically to those who are merely interested but still holds enough depth for those with more interest.