Major competition announced to redesign Museum grounds

19 September 2013

The Natural History Museum and Malcolm Reading have launched a competition today to recreate the grounds of the Museum.

The project invites teams of architects and designers to conceive an exterior setting to match the architectural splendour of the buildings.

The main Museum building, the Grade I listed Waterhouse building, is often admired as an example of Victorian passion for celebrating and classifying the natural world.

From 'ugly' to iconic

Alfred Waterhouse, a relatively unknown architect at the time, was brought in to redesign what was the International Exhibition building in 1881. Before the redesign, it was once described as 'one of the ugliest buildings ever raised in England'.

As well as being visually stimulating, the redesigned grounds have to accommodate the needs of more than five million visitors annually, and enhance the Museum's reputation for academic excellence.


Worm charming on the front lawn. As well as matching the unmistakable architecture of the buildings, the grounds need to accommodate the different activities of five million visitors every year.

The grounds have recently housed the Sensational Butterflies exhibition and will soon be turned into a giant ice rink.

Calling on the best international talent

Director of the Museum Dr Michael Dixon said:

‘The Natural History Museum is one of London’s most iconic buildings.

'The grounds surrounding the building make an important contribution to how people experience the Museum.

'This competition offers the very best of the architectural industry the opportunity to set the Museum in a modern context, so it continues to be one of the UK’s most recognised and admired destinations.'

The competition has been devised and managed by specialist competition organiser Malcolm Reading Consultants, in association with Deloitte, the Museum's project manager for the redevelopment.

'This is a wonderful design challenge with great promise,' Malcolm Reading said. 'For the first time, Waterhouse’s building will have a landscape to match.

'Millions of visitors will benefit from this. We are aiming this competition at the brightest talent internationally and in particular active collaborations between architects and landscape designers.'

Competition information

For competition enquiries, call Jayne Broomhall on +44 (0)20 7831 2998 or email

For full details of the competition and how to respond, visit the Malcolm Reading website.

Malcolm Reading Civic Realm competition information

The shortlist for the second stage of the competition will be announced in November. The winning team will be announced in February, following a public exhibition of the entries.

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