Room 35 The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery

British Museum

Dannatt, Johnson Architects have recently delivered the refur­bishment of the Joseph Hotung Gallery within the Grade I listed context of the British Museum. 

The Gallery is a temporary exhibition gallery on the third floor. It hosts a programme of revolving exhibition which involves the install­ation and removal of temporary displays multiple times each year. The project looked to improve the appearance of a destination exhibition gallery; improving the visitor experience and providing the expected level of finish for a paid exhibition space. 

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Throughout, a focus was placed on quality of finish, robustness of materials, and generally creating a visually clean’ space in which a variety of collections could be housed and celebrated. The works, being within a Grade I listed, working Museum which was open to the public throughout the works, represented similar challenges in terms of access, security, safety, working hours and statutory consents. Every effort was made to retain Foster’s original ambition for the space in terms of visual recess­iveness and clean’ finishes, whilst upgrading its performance for the modern expect­a­tions of a destination gallery of this signi­ficance. Interfaces with the historic fabric of the curved stone drum’ of the Round Reading Room are light touch and allow a degree of separation for the historic structure to breathe’ and be read in separation and conjunction with the new. 

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A key driver for the design was this aspiration for an agile and responsive gallery, allowing for quicker, easier changes of layout and object type, but also flexibility and function­ality improve­ments to vastly improve the modes and methods of display which were possible within the space.

The project delivers a more functional and usable space to facilitate the programme of Exhibitions by improving the access to power and data and a number of flexible mechanisms for accom­mod­ating necessary changes to object displays and exhibitions. In this way, together with the signi­ficance of its setting, its destination gallery status and require­ments for longevity and ease of maintenance.

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