Turning a forgotten courtyard into a glass covered plaza is the aim of the £97M Great Court scheme at the British Museum. The Foster & Partners designed project, due for completion in 2000, has been funded by a £30M Millennium Commission grant, £16M from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £40M from private sources.
The museum currently has a cramped entrance hall and suffers from a 'people crisis' with sections having to be closed at peak times. The book stacks and offices crammed into the courtyard will be demolished, replaced with new circulation space covered by a glass canopy spanning up to 44m and designed by consultant Buro Happold.
Robert Smirke's famous Round Reading Room is to be restored and original 1850 museum facades reinstated. Underground will be new lecture theatres, galleries and an education centre. Enabling works are under way, co-ordinated by project construction manager Mace, with main building work commencing in March.