Outgoing director says renovation work will take several decades

Bosses at the British Museum are set to release details of their masterplan for the historic institution’s renovation in a matter of weeks, with an international architectural competition coming on its heels.

Details of the masterplan timing and competition launch accompanied an announcement confirming that Hartwig Fischer, who has served as the museum’s director since 2016, will step down from the role next year.

Fischer was tasked with developing a comprehensive masterplan for the renovation of the historic Bloomsbury building, and the redisplay of its world-renowned collection, when he started in his current role just over seven years ago.

The museum said: “Work on the masterplan is now nearing completion, it will be published this autumn and an international architectural competition will follow.”

The British Museum World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, London

The British Museum World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, by Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners opened in 2014. It was built by Mace

It said the construction of the John McAslan & Partners-designed British Museum Archaeological Research Collection in Berkshire, which is being built by Graham and will open next year, was a key part of the initial phases of the “multigenerational” masterplan project.

Fischer cautioned that the renovation project would be a long haul but said the soon-to-be published masterplan would guide its delivery.

“In 2016, I was called to the British Museum to prepare the essential renovation of a building in need of rejuvenation, a global icon of museum architecture whose complex architectural substance calls for urgent, largescale intervention,” he said.

“The renovation work itself will take several decades, but the mission I was given by the trustees has been accomplished: the foundations of the BM Masterplan are now laid. It will serve as the basis for all subsequent work and forms the foundation to innovative concepts for the future display.”

The British Museum World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, by Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners, was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2017. The 18,500 sq m scheme was completed by Mace in 2014 under a CM deal.