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Restoring the Enlightenment
at the King’s Library

King’s Library at the British Museum
London, UK

“The British Museum’s new King’s Library has turned out to be a sensation. Every epithet implied by the word 'museum' – scholarly, monotonous, specialist, dry, boring – has been stood on its head.”

Simon Jenkins
The Times

HOK’s conservation work at the King’s Library British Museum won the prestigious Stirling Awards Crown Estate Conservation Award.

The King’s Library, originally designed by Sir Robert Smirke, was built in the 1820s to house the Royal Libraries of King George II and King George III.

After the removal of the collection from the British Museum to the British Library at St. Pancras, HOK’s restoration architects used historical records and drawings to guide the conservation of the King’s Library. The project allowed the magnificent room to be completely revitalized by restoring the splendor of the decorative scheme and carrying out much-needed conservation, repairs and cleaning.

In consultation with the British Museum, it was determined that the room itself, considered to be one of the finest neo-classical rooms in London, should act as the primary exhibition. The library’s conservation plan provides for the discreet incorporation of a variety of new and mechanical services – including air conditioning, fiberoptic lighting and power, data and security cabling – in addition to restoring the room to its original decorative order.

The project provided the British Museum with a new exhibition space devoted to the Enlightenment period while keeping interventions to the historic Grade I building to a minimum. Its architecture and décor were not only respected, but enhanced.


21,500 sq. ft. / 2,000 sq. m.


Conservation Architecture


Crown Estate – Crown Estate Conservation Award

Green Organization – National Gold Winner, Green Apple Awards

Royal Institute of British Architects – Conservation Commendations

Royal Institute of British Architects – RIBA Award for High Architectural Standards & Contribution to its Local Environment

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors – Building Conservation, London Region