The façade was designed to suggest the Museum's history and purpose. It is in the Classical Revival style of 15th century Italy, as a mark of refinement and learning.
The mosaics and sculpture represent Science, Art, Poetry, History and Philosophy. The triangular pediment celebrates the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The mosaic, the hard red brick and the moulded terracotta used on the building were all promoted at the time as attractive materials that could withstand pollution.