Foster + Partners has unveiled its revamp of the Imperial War Museum (IWM) to coincide with the First World War Centenary. The first stage of the redesign has seen the addition of galleries centred around a new atrium to make the museum more accessible, let in more daylight and increase views of the surrounding park.
The atrium is spacious enough to display the largest objects from the Museum’s collection, while the surrounding galleries contain the IWM’s collection of aircrafts – a Harrier jet, Spitfire and V2 rocket – suspended from the ceiling. When viewed from the upper levels, they are framed by a series of large-scale concrete fins.
Fins also line the atrium and provide structural support for the aircrafts, extended gallery floors and barrel-vaulted roof. A prominent cantilevered staircase has been added to make it easier for visitors to circulate through the building.
Fosters has relocated the café and shop from the exhibition space to the ground floor, where previously sealed windows have been opened to allow views across the park. This allows the café to be used outside the museum’s opening hours, and seating has been extended into the park, where an oval public forecourt will be added.
A temporary entrance staircase has been installed, but will be removed at a later stage and the approach to the building will be scooped out to create a single, accessible entrance beneath the existing portico stair.
The planned oval forecourt will create a public plaza, visually balancing the weight of the historic building and emphasising the Imperial War Museum as a contemporary institution, while retaining the integrity of the existing structure.
“We have peeled away some of the recent additions to celebrate and restore the historic architecture, opening the building up to the park and revealing the gallery levels inside an impressive new hall,” said Spencer de Grey, head of design at Foster + Partners.