Our new friend Samar was not only our first official dinner guest (lasagne), but since her PhD research at MIT is on grid shells, she was also our very own tour guide just across the street at the British Museum—where the most famous grid shell of all covers the Great Court. Built by Foster & Partners who also built London’s Gherkin building, it’s difficult not to gawk at this engineering masterpiece.
We asked Samar for some sweet facts, here’s what she had to say: 1. There are a total of 3,312 unique glass panels—no two are the same. 2. The great court is not symmetric! The reading room dome is offset by 3 meters, creating a challenge to the structural design. 3. The height of the grid shell was limited by two things—one, it could not obstruct a skyline view of the reading room dome, and two, the roof was not allowed to be seen from the street level. 4. The use of a triangular grid allows for the outside surface to remain smooth and flat (i.e. a quadrilateral grid with the double curvature would result in a ‘jagged’ cladding like this one in Washington, D.C. 5. The roof is self-supporting, and rests on sliding bearings on the perimeter and trusses on the corners.