Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum appointed our team in 2016 to refurbish the Grade II* Listed World Gallery and redisplay the Collections People Stories. The proposals include an innovative reintroduction of natural daylight into the historic South Hall and made improvements to the infrastructure including new environmental controls and a gallery opening to improve connection and orientation throughout the museum. A new creative studio space will also be created in the 1911 Emslie Hall providing the museum with a large and central flexible display and event space. Designs were developed in collaboration with BAT Studio, Mott MacDonald and engineers Haskins Robinson Waters.


Horniman Museum







MICA Architects led a team of consultants in the delivery of a two-gallery refurbishment scheme within the original buildings of the Horniman Museum. Works involved renovation of the Grade II* Listed South Hall and Grade II Listed Centenary Gallery through infrastructure upgrades including the reintroduction of daylight as part of a major three-year development plan for the museum to rehouse their world-renowned Anthropology collection.

Following a successful competition entry, MICA brought together a design team that included Mott MacDonald and DHA Designs. The team were employed to provide architectural services from RIBA Stages 2 through 7 including services to assist with the Stage 2 Heritage Lottery Funding submission.

The Horniman Museum was founded by Frederick John Horniman and began as a private collection of cultural artefacts and natural history specimens. The growth rate and popularity of the Museum were such that in 1896 Horniman decided to rehouse it: this was the beginning of the building complex known today as the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

The surviving North and South Hall and Clock Tower were designed by Charles Harrison Townsend and opened in 1901. Since opening, the Horniman has continued as a working museum. A range of additional buildings have been added to the estate including the 2001 extension which connects the museum to its gardens. This indirectly affected the number of visitors to the South Hall and Centenary Gallery as the museum entrance was relocated from the original building. Research had revealed, although innovative at the time of their development, the South Hall and Centenary Galleries were outdated with decreasing visitor numbers.

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When the South Hall opened in 1901 the space benefited from daylight via roof lights within the barrel-vaulted ceiling. However, this aspect was blocked during the 1980s to prevent natural light compromising the collection. The reintroduction of daylight was seen as an essential aspect of the visitor’s experience. The fundamental element of this project was to carefully reintroduce natural light into the listed buildings with an approach that safeguards the collection and reinforces the exhibition design.

In response to the brief, the concept designs included proposals for daylighting, buildings services, structural design and outline specifications. In addition we worked closely with the cost consultant to generate projected construction costs and project programmes. MICA worked closely with DHA to evaluate how reintroduction of natural light would affect the galleries. Through a variety of design techniques from physical modelling to digital simulations we were able to interrogate a series of options from reinstating glazing in the original locations to the final solution of high level roof lights accompanied with a series of new daylight reflectors suspended from the original steel structure.

The new daylight reflectors, affectionately known as the ‘foils’ are suspended across the full length the South Hall and allow diffused light to wash over the barrel vaulted ceiling. The foils have been designed to accommodate the weight of lightweight exhibits providing the museum an opportunity to utilise the impressive volume of the hall.

To introduce natural lighting at the highest point of the roof it was essential to investigate the impact any building works would have on the Listed fabric including the impact on external views. The roof lights have been carefully designed to sit below the level of the previous ridge line to ensure no visibility from the main road or from within the gardens. The disused cupolas were incorporated into the natural ventilation strategy to draw air out of the building.

The architectural works are complete, and the next phase by the exhibition team is in progress following a successful crossover of programmes.

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