The British Museum of Decolonized Nature

John Zhang


( Concept )

Rooted in Western imperialism and colonialism, museums contribute to a regime “not limited to the governing of peoples but also the structuring of nature”(Demos, 2016). Modern museums are machines that feed the process of ontological objectification and reification. They reinforce the false Cartesian dichotomy of human and non-human worlds, and the delusion that nature is part of the human empire of things. If museums continue to perpetuate this status quo, they will eventually lose the trust of the public, and face their own extinction.

For this proposal, I have reimagined an emptied British Museum, where the vast majority of its collections have been repatriated. Where colonial artefacts, such as the Parthenon sculptures, once stood proudly on display, nature and the sweet disorder of wilderness have taken over. Devised as both an allegory and an architectural scheme, this re-wilded ‘ruin’ demands us to see our relationship with nature anew. I see this new ‘British Museum of Decolonised Nature’ as a new institution for the decolonisation of nature, and a space not only of climate knowledge, but also of climate justice.

Rewilded Duveen Room (left) and Empty China Room (right)

Project Team
John Zhang
Project Name
The British Museum of Decolonized Nature
Team Location
UK, London
Architecture & Design