Museum purists leave no inferior stone unturned

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 September, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 September, 1999, 12:00am

A major part of London's British Museum may have to be demolished because builders used inferior French stone instead of superior masonry from English quarries.

The body which overseas the care of the country's ancient buildings, English Heritage, has demanded an inquiry into how the work was allowed to proceed using substandard limestone.

Reconstruction of the museum's south portico, which was demolished in the 1870s, was recently completed in a project overseen by Sir Norman Foster, the architect responsible for the passenger terminal at Chek Lap Kok airport.

His redevelopment is based around the building's famous reading room, which was used by, among others, Karl Marx.

English Heritage chairman Sir Jocelyn Stevens said of the project: 'This is the British Museum, for God's sake. You'd think they would be careful to make sure the quality was right.' The English stone used in the original design was harder wearing than the French stone and allowed for more precise carving. English Heritage has the power to order the rebuilt portico demolished if it is found not to fit with the original design.