The opening of the former Reading Room at the British Museum in London,
renovated by Norman Foster, provoked quite a to-do. It was here, in the
rotunda of the inner courtyard, that the British Library started lending out
its books in 1857 and gradually filling the courtyard with stock-rooms full
of books. After the library moved out in 1998, Foster tore the stockrooms
down and returned the courtyard and rotunda to their former state.
A glass dome and wide exterior staircases to the new exhibition rooms
and obligatory museum shop have given the rotunda its solitary character back.
The cleared inner courtyard, which was fitted with a vaulted,
Buckminster- Fuller-like glass roof and new southern portal, now looks like a
spacious piazza. Whilst the high filigree roof creates a celestial atmosphere in
which neo-classicism encounters science-fiction, it is the portal alone which
causes displeasure. Instead of the Portland limestone used to build the museum
in 1823, the supplier hoodwinked both the architect and the museum and supplied
stone from France, which is of a lighter shade and is now dazzling the
historical monument protectors.
Foster and the museum think all the excitement is a bit exaggerated.
Pro & Kontra
The Right Chemistry
The German Museum was criticised for being "too old-fashioned". It was rather
ironic that the huge technology museum in Munich, which documents the milestones
of human progress, was not presenting its ex-hibits in a particularly progressive manner.
At least not until those responsible started looking for a new concept for the chemistry
department and hit upon the "ergon 3" design team. The three former co-workers of ICE
designer Alexander Neumeister laid the first stone by conceiving a pharmaceutics
show in which the visitor quite literally penetrates the secrets of bio-chemistry:
he can experience the nanoworld of the body and the complex processes that take
place inside it magnified 350,000 times, can move around in walk-in cells and progress
hand over hand along blood streams or nerve fibres. Once the "Glass Man" at the Dresden
Museum of Hygiene amazed the public; in Munich the world of cells is made transparent
interactively and very success-fully. On peak days, up to 10,000 visitors discover the
connections between the organism, illness and cures in the macro-microcosm,
a perfect combination of entertainment and information. The chemistry is right!
In the Valley of Pills
When did you last have a headache? Admittedly, we only usually realise what a fantastic
miracle the body is when it doesnt function quite as it should. Then a quick Aspirin is
often the most convenient way to kill the pain. Which is probably why the cure-all from
Bayer has been given a place of honour at the permanent exhibition "Pharmaceuticals"
in the German Museum in Munich. With the lavishly designed
exhibition by the "ergon 3" team (sounds a bit like an upper, if you ask me), heavily
sponsored by the pharma industry, the latter is effectively celebrating itself.
Gigantic, inflated body cells in garish colours decorated with outsized piles of tablets
suggest to even the youngest visitors how beautifully the pill industry and the human
body harmonise. The fact that the pharma giants are lining their own pockets at the
expense of sick people, that tablets can be addictive and preventative measures can
help you lead a healthy, (almost) medicine-free life, is discreetly ignored.
A bright and colourful pharma-spectacle that gives you a headache.
So what! Take an Aspirin!
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