Casson Mann revamp London's Natural History Museum, as giant blue whale replaces icon Dippy

London’s Natural History Museum has completed a major revamp of its main hall, with its blue whale skeleton replacing the national institution’s much-loved Diplodocus replica – a sight which has welcomed visitors to the museum for more than 37 years.

The museum made the move as it aims to refresh its image, wanting to be known for living science rather than its fossil collection, with a focus on “authenticity” and learning new things relevant to the modern world.

Environmental and exhibition design practice Casson Mann were selected to reinvigorate the iconic Hintze Hall, working with historic building consultants Purcell, and refurbishment and restoration specialists Jerram Falkus Construction to carry out the hall’s first major refurbishment since the 1970s.

The suspended blue whale skeleton – named Hope – is the focal point of the revamp, with its placement meant to create a dynamic tension between the museum’s architectural and scientific narratives, with contemporary displays surrounded by the building’s Romanesque architecture.

In addition to the whale’s installation, new plinths and modern display cases have been installed to showcase objects from the museum’s collection and to reflect areas of scientific endeavour, including origins, evolution and biodiversity. Casson Mann says the new displays and infrastructure will see the Grade 1 listed hall through at least the next 25 years.

“The transformation of Hintze Hall represents a new era for us as a natural history museum for the future,” said Sir Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum

“Putting our blue whale at the centre of the museum, between living species on the West and extinct species on the East, is a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the responsibility we have towards our planet.”

The whale skeleton replaces ‘Dippy’ – the museum’s iconic diplodocus – which has been in the museum’s collection for more than 112 years. The 21.3 metre-long dinosaur, with 292 replica bones made of plaster, will soon embark on a UK tour starting in February next year. The museum, which is also renovating its exterior grounds, has announced plans to cast Dippy in bronze upon its return to the museum and install it as an outdoor installation in its gardens.

The opening of Hintze Hall marks the end of a redevelopment programme that began with Casson Mann’s 2012 Treasures Gallery. According to the studio, "this final phase continues the design language and limited palette of materials, carefully combined to tie all spaces together into one coherent visual and intellectual whole."

“It’s a huge privilege to have been tasked with the Hintze Hall redevelopment,” said Roger Mann, co-founder and Director of Casson Mann. “I’m a Londoner and this has been my favourite museum to visit since I can remember, and as an environmental designer I’m passionate about its beautiful architecture and very excited about this fantastic opportunity to create suitably stunning contemporary displays within its extraordinary interior”.

Visitor attractions  museums  Casson Mann  heritage  Dippy  blue whale  Purcell  architecture  Hintze Hall  Natural History Museum 
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London’s Natural History Museum has completed a major revamp of its main hall, with its blue whale skeleton replacing the national institution’s much-loved Diplodocus replica – a sight which has welcomed visitors to the museum for more than 37 years. The museum made the move as it aims to refresh its image, wanting to be known for living science rather than its fossil collection, with a focus on “authenticity” and
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'Hope' the blue whale replaced 'Dippy' the diplodocus / NHM
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