The Natural History Museum’s breathtaking building reflects the characteristic style of its architect, Alfred Waterhouse, but the process of coming up with the final design was a lengthy one. Waterhouse had to incorporate many competing ideas. This sketch of its layout is not one of Waterhouse’s own, but was drawn by Owen, who had particularly strong views on how the museum should look. This sketch bears a strong resemblance to the plan of the museum today.

Waterhouse also had to juggle with a stringent and ever-decreasing budget, which forced him to omit two proposed wings of the building. These wings have never been built, so his planned building remains incomplete.

  • German church in Romanesque style

    Find out more about the influences that affected the design of Waterhouse’s innovative creation

  • sketches of living animals

    Learn about the thinking that led to the Museum’s decoration with terracotta ornaments inspired by natural history

The Natural History Museum from Cromwell Road, 1880.
History of the Museum

Trace the evolution of the Natural History Museum, from Hans Sloane's collections at the British Museum to cutting-edge research taking place today.