A new library and research facilities are at the center of refurbishment plans for the London Science Museum. The commission to refurbish around 400 square meters (4305 sq ft) of space on the ground floor and mezzanine levels was recently awarded to Coffey Architects. As well as providing space for research and study, the new facility will allow access to more than half a million sources contained in the Wroughton Library, including archives and original materials.
The project for the new Science Museum Research Center will be carried out in the Wellcome Wolfson Building, part of the Wellcome Wing extension to the museum that was completed in 2003. Its focus is a large main reading room, which will act as the central core of activity.
From here a stair leads up to the more enclosed spaces of the mezzanine. According to the architects, the scheme is defined by two main elements: the bookcase and the light-filtering canopy. Made of pale timber, the bookcases, desks and floor create a continuous material landscape for students and researchers, as well as serving the practical storage and display functions. The continuity of material also has the effect of a sort of warm embrace at the lower, functional, portion of the rooms.
Above this timber section, the overall interior atmosphere will be enhanced by the addition of a double-height, translucent canopy, which also controls acoustics. Punched through with thousands of oculi, the canopy will attenuate the natural light flowing into the space and is meant to "give the feeling of reading a book while sitting under a tree."
In one area, the canopy will cover the large section of glazing that runs along the upper portion of the main wall and wraps over the lip of the roof. In another it is used to create a soft tunnel of light all along a high, narrow space.
In addition to the library and reading room, the scheme will include a number of different areas for research, and a "research bar" (perhaps inspired by the Eagle pub in Cambridge, where Watson and Crick made the famous declaration of their discovery of the secret of life).
There will be private study areas among the book stacks on the ground floor, as well as offices and separate research rooms for resident scholars on the upper floor. The project is set for completion in 2015.
London's Science Museum was founded in 1857 under the patronage of Prince Albert. It moved to its current premises in the 1860s and was launched as a center of scientific enquiry with an exhibition of an international collection of scientific instruments in 1867.