Building Study: British Museum World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre

View from the north

Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners doesn’t quite get the British Museum right, says Ike Ijeh

Harmony or contrast? This may seem an innocuous or even simplistic question but it touches on one of the most contentious and disputed arguments in modern architectural debate. Should new buildings seek to harmonise with their historic environments and actively maintain and enrich the architectural codes and aesthetics already established within it? Or should they deliberately react against those environments, forcing reappraisal of context by conspicuously prioritising the act of intervention over the process of assimilation?

With their proud pedigree of preservationist provocation, one might expect Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners to be firmly ensconced in the latter camp. This was, after all, the practice that gave us such revolutionary urban milestones as the Pompidou Centre and Lloyd’s, buildings which, particularly in the latter case, are blissfully unconcerned with establishing visual consensus with their historic surroundings but rather wish to shellshock and antagonise them into submission.

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