One of the Must Do items on my wife’s list was to see the British Museum’s special exhibition on Ice Age art. We asked my parents long in advance if they wanted to see it too, and they said yes, so we bought tickets online and herded my folks to the Museum.
I think their brains shorted out the moment they walked into the Great Court, with its city-block-sized glass roof.
I love this court. It’s one of the most stunning spaces, in both architectural and social terms, that I’ve ever encountered. It’s also the largest covered public square in Europe.
A couple of nifty facts from the Museum’s site:
Work on the Great Court’s magnificent glass and steel roof began in September 1999. The canopy was designed and installed by computer. It was constructed out of 3,312 panes of glass, no two of which are the same.
At two acres, the Great Court increased public space in the Museum by forty per cent, allowing visitors to move freely around the main floor for the first time in 150 years.
The Ice Age art exhibit was fascinating and worthwhile, but to be honest I think my parents were more wowed by this view.
Then I took them to see the Acropolis exhibits, and watched their brains short out again. That was great fun, because it exactly mirrored my own reaction when I first saw the famed sculptures of the Parthenon. Later, I told Mom a joke on myself, about how I’d spent most of my life thinking that the Elgin Marbles were some sort of bigger, more special version of the marbles I’d played with as a kid:
…and that I’d been quite amazed to discover that in fact, they were these very sculptures we were looking at. I waited for her to laugh, but instead her eyes got big and she said, “Good heavens. These are the Elgin Marbles?? I always thought they were round marbles too!”
And then we had a great laugh. Data without context is a dangerous thing! Fortunately, travel has a way of filling in context.
(The marbles are courtesy of Wikipedia, but the Great Court image is mine all mine. Click to biggify.)