The WCEC building is located on the north-west corner of the British Museum site in Bloomsbury. It consists of five vertically linked pavilions (one of which is located entirely underground), and houses a new exhibition gallery, laboratories and conservation studios, storage, and facilities to support the Museum’ logistical requirements and loans programme.
This building is the realisation of an extremely complicated brief in terms of spatial challenges, technical requirements, and engineering technologies. Its achievement derives from the elegant and simple way these challenges are met, while maintaining a clear and coherent diagram and a refined and rational building enclosure.
The spaces provided for exhibition allow objects of a size and height which would not be possible to exhibit elsewhere in the museum. Objects can be delivered at street level in lorries which are then taken to lower floors by a platform lift which sinks into the ground without disturbing the landscape.
The jury felt that the substantial accommodation for curation activities, with demanding constraints on direct light, thermal control and pest prevention, are seamlessly threaded into the overriding diagram and structure, with an admirable rigour and clarity.
The jury appreciated the way the architects had overcome planning and heritage concerns in relation to the building for new offices which are sunk below ground but grouped around an attractive glass-roofed central space.
Generally the jury admired the skill and control the architects had demonstrated in realising the client’s enormously complicated and demanding brief while maintaining a rigorous and disciplined plan and an elegant external cladding system.