It seems entirely appropriate that the British Museum, a building bursting with the loot of emperors, kings and pharaohs, should be extended by lords. Lord Foster brought in the green-tinged bulge of the Great Court roof in 2000, a dazzling canopy for a cafe that injected a dose of millennial sparkle into the middle of the dusty warren. Now Lord Rogers’ office has completed a £135m expansion, adding conservation labs and a storage space with the combined volume of 14 Olympic swimming pools. It is one of the biggest projects in the museum’s 260-year history – but you might never even know it was there.
What Foster did for front-of-house amid great fanfare, Rogers has done for the back, almost in secret. Cleverly slotted into a gap between two wings in the museum’s north-west corner and sandwiched between seven listed buildings, the grandly named World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (WCEC) is something of an iceberg: plunging 20 metres beneath the streets of Bloomsbury, the complex is 70% hidden below ground. It is the most mega of London’s mega-basements, not for private cinemas and bowling alleys, but for the care and conservation of the world’s priceless treasures. Read more.