British Museum Reading Room

The British Museum Reading Room is situated in the centre of the Great Court. In the early 1850s the museum library was in need of a larger reading room and the idea was proposed to construct a round room in the central courtyard. The building was designed by Sydney Smirke and was constructed between 1854 and 1857. It used cast iron, concrete, glass and the latest technology in ventilation and heating. The dome, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, has a diameter of 42.6 metres but is not technically free standing: constructed in segments on cast iron, the ceiling is suspended and made out of papier-mâché. Book stacks built around the reading room were made of iron to take the huge weight and add fire protection. There were forty kilometres of shelving in the stacks prior to the library's relocation to the British Library, in Pancras, in 1997. As part of the redevelopment of the Great Court, the Reading Room was fully renovated and restored, including the papier-mâché ceiling which was repaired to its original colour scheme, having previously undergone radical redecorations (the initial design of the roof was considered excessive at the time). Wikipedia/CTGuides