The Great Court in the British Museum
Architects: Foster and Partners
The result of an architectural competition, the £100 million Queen Elizabeth II Great Court transformed the Museum’s inner courtyard into the largest covered public square in Europe. It is a two-acre space enclosed by a spectacular glass roof with the world-famous Reading Room at its centre. It was opened on 6 December 2000 by Her Majesty the Queen.
In the original Robert Smirke design the courtyard was meant to be a garden. However, in 1852–7 the Reading Room and a number of bookstacks were built in the courtyard to house the library department of the Museum and the space was lost.
In 1997, the Museum’s library department was relocated to the new British Library building in St Pancras and there was an opportunity to re-open the space to public.