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Design drawing for the Natural History Museum, London, 1878

Design drawing for the Natural History Museum London 1878

This drawing shows the interior design of the Natural History Museum by Alfred Waterhouse, the young Liverpudlian who won the commission after the original architect passed away. The fauna and flora depicted in the terracotta decorations of the building were intended to be a reflection of its contents. These were divided into living creatures and extinct.

This view of the Central Hall is where you would now see the familiar Diplodocus, a cast skeleton that has been in the museum’s collection for 110 years, soon to be replaced by a real skeleton of a Blue Whale in 2017. Waterhouse was one of the most successful Victorian architects, he won the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1878 and became president of the RIBA ten years later.

Image: Design drawing for the Central Hall (now the Hintze Hall), Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London, England, 1878; image from RIBApix (number RIBA12411)
Architect: Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905)
Credit: RIBA Collections

Article by Elizabeth Adams, RIBA
25 March 2015

Discover more

This is just one of over four million items in our world-class architectural collections at the RIBA Library – it's open to everyone and access is free. Visit the library to explore our collections of books, periodicals, drawings, photographs and models:

  1. Book
    Cunningham, C. and Waterhouse, P., 1992.
    'Alfred Waterhouse 1830-1905: biography of a practice'
    Oxford: Clarendon Press
    Shelved at 72.036.1(42):92W // CUN [Reference]
  2. Book
    Girouard, M., 1999.
    'Alfred Waterhouse and the Natural History Museum'
    London: Natural History Museum
    Shelved at 727.7:502(42.134S):92W // GIR 1 [Reference]
  3. Drawing
    Perspective of main entrance hall from beneath arch. Sepia pen and watercolour. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878.
    Call/Ref. no. SB10/WATA[81](252) [located at the V&A]

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