The Great Court

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.

The 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:

JM marbles 01

…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.)


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in culture, Europe, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Great Court

  1. Alma says:

    Oh. My. God. I can’t believe I’ve been to London four times and never been there! Next time…

  2. Jason Cleaver says:

    I’ve lived in and around London all my life and I’ve never been there. Keep meaning to do a tour of the museums but never get round to it.

    So how you finding London so far? Apart from wet. 🙂

    • oregon expat says:

      We’re back home now, and actually only got rained on once. Our last morning was Wednesday, and we did detect an odd yellow orb in the sky, which we had not seen before (and hadn’t seen in the previous three weeks in Portugal, either) and which seemed to emanate warmth. It was rather nice.

      We really enjoyed our visit, as always, with the exception of our last Tube ride out of the city. We hit that one at rush hour and I rode standing up for the entire trip, 35 minutes. Now I know how a sardine feels. I’ve no idea how commuters stand that day after day (pun intended).

  3. Cathy White says:

    You are not alone, I had always thought they were round marbles, perhaps similar to the NZ Mouraki Boulders. Even now I still imagine them to be marbles, while the reality seems a little mundane.

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