The British Museum has opened the doors of a new bookshop created by Lumsden Design. This will be the sixth shop interior Lumsden has created for the global cultural destination during the past five years. It’s the next step in a series of designs that began with the Family and Collectibles shops in the British Museum’s Great Court. The new bookshop curves for 35 metres of an arc around the outer wall of the iconic circular Reading Room within the Great Court, which attracts visitors and academic researchers from around the world. Visitors can now enter and exit the ground floor of the Reading Room through the shop.
There were many challenges for Lumsden designing the new bookshop in the British Museum. The space is long and thin – only 3.2 metres deep. It needed to be sensitive to Foster’s iconic architecture and to function as a highly popular bookshop for visitors. All the fixtures and fittings had to be suitable for displaying 20,000 books and storing an additional 2,000 out of sight.
Lumsden’s retail scheme works seamlessly with the architecture – areas of the Great Court’s Portland stone are visible between the retail display furniture and fixtures. Skinned with glass, the shop has a large area of window display so Lumsden has created a focal point that can be seen across the Great Court. A two metre diameter wheel made of 300 books celebrates the unique selection of volumes and research guides on sale.
The scene is set at the entrance to the shop by a bespoke oversized book and feature display. Inside, the retail scheme is stylish and sophisticated, incorporating a material palette of natural oak, black lacquered MDF and grey Corian highlighted by brass detailing. Tabletops wrapped in black leather echo the original Reading Room writing desks. All the bespoke retail furniture designed by Lumsden has been made by Benbow to the highest standard and feature dovetail joints reflecting the subtleties and craft of bookbinding. Integral storage is incorporated throughout the design but hidden from the eye of the shopper.
The shelving on the walls appears to float within the space, supported by slim uprights that reveal much of the stone floor to enhance the feeling of space. Callum Lumsden, creative director and founder of Lumsden, said: “The British Museum is a global destination for scholars, academics and visitors alike and the Bookshop has to cater for a prolific array of titles and categories. We have strived to create a compelling retail environment which compliments the majesty of the Reading Room, as well as enhancing the architecture of Lord Foster in the Great Court itself.”
Named the UK’s most popular visitor attraction in 2013, the British Museum saw more than 6.7 million visitors last year. Lumsden Design’s work at the Museum began in 2010 with the Family and Collectibles shops and a temporary bookshop, followed by the Grenville Room Shop, Family Shop, Collections Shop and then the Exhibitions Shop that opened in the new Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery earlier this year.