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Could you re-design the grounds of the NHM?

The Natural History Museum has to be one of the most iconic buildings in the country. Being able to redesign the grounds of this museum would be a great honour and one not available to many people. However, at Anderselite, we’ve learned of an exciting competition; the museum is looking for submissions from architectural and design professionals on how to create the new grounds
Do you think you're up to the task?

The building
The main part of the Natural History Museum consists of the Waterhouse Building, which was first opened in 1881. This example of Victorian architecture is Grade 1 listed. The building is instantly recognisable and celebrates the best of 19th-century building design. The Victorians had a great love of the natural world and this can be seen through the attention to detail on the exterior of the building. It contains many Romanesque and Gothic features, with a 200 metre long facade. The building is topped with two 62 metre tall towers and completed with a grand entrance arch. This imposing design is a great frontage for the exhibits that lie within.
Over the years additional features have been added, including the Darwin Centre Phase II extension, which opened within the past five years ago.

The museum is renowned worldwide for its academic knowledge and expertise. It's home to a variety of different exhibits from across the natural world; encompassing prehistoric dinosaurs through to the modern day.

The grounds
Sir Alfred Waterhouse, the building's designer, had a vision for the museum's grounds, but this was never fully realised. Currently the grounds take up about 50% of the total site but they require development to match the splendour and grandness of the building. The grounds are set below street level and mainly consist of grassed areas. There is a subway system to provide visitors with access from the underground network, but this is not fully connected to the museum. There are a range of activities that take place within the grounds throughout the year, including temporary exhibitions and the annual ice rink. Potential designers will need to think about how they will manage these needs within the redevelopment.

The grounds play an important part in the whole visitor experience, which the museum is looking to enhance through this competition. They want to see a team which can come up with an innovative use of the grounds, which encompasses the beauty of the interior exhibits. They want a vision for the future, which provides better accessibility and visitor management and improves the overall image of the museum area.

The competition
The museum is looking for design concepts for the grounds that will match the splendour of the ancient buildings and create a visually pleasing entrance for their 5 million visitors every year. They need to have a contemporary vision, but one that works with the outstanding architecture and heritage of the building. All designs should be original, sustainable and have safe, secure and inclusive outcomes. They want to see proposals from multi-disciplinary teams, which encompass a number of different skills.
The design concepts need to take into account the requirements of visitors, staff and local neighbours. The nearby Exhibition Road Cultural Quarter has recently been developed and any proposals for the museum's grounds should consider how it will integrate with the rest of the local area.

Initially teams are asked to submit their expressions of interest. A short list of teams will be announced in November and they will be asked to create a design concept. These will be placed on public exhibition before a winner is revealed in February 2014. Full details of the competition can be found here.

This is the opportunity of a lifetime for design teams to work on an iconic and landmark building. With some vision and imagination, the grounds of the Natural History Museum can be turned into an area that it truly deserves and that will be somewhere people want to visit. Expressions of interest must be received by 28th October - at Anderselite, we wish you all the very best!
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