Imperial War Museums

Imperial War Museums

Foster + Partners
London, United Kingdom
Stories By

Foster + Partners

Knauf AMF
Nigel Young Foster + Partners

Imperial War Museums

Mapei as Manufacturers

A Mapei system of flooring products has been specified as part of a major redevelopment at IWM London. Part of the Imperial War Museums, the historic museum has been transformed to mark the centenary of the First World War; the design– created by architects Foster + Partners - improves access, circulation, as well as creating new vistas to the park outside. Mapei’s high performance cementitious flooring system, Ultratop, was chosen to complement the exhibits and provide a low maintenance floor coupled with resistance to heavy pedestrian traffic. All works were co-ordinated by IWM’s Construction Managers, Lend Lease, and Mapei systems were installed by Polished Concrete Designs for ITC Concepts Ltd.

The transformed IWM London includes new world-class First World War Galleries, a newly configured atrium and temporary events space over six floors displaying iconic large objects, new retail outlets and a café opening into the adjoining park. Alongside permanent exhibitions and galleries, new centenary features include Truth and Memory – the largest exhibition of British First World War art for almost 100 years - and a major family exhibition, Horrible Histories®.

Mapei’s flooring system was specified throughout a 5,000m2 floor area. The specified system included Mapei Topcem rapid-drying screed, which hardens within 24 hours and dries in approx. four days, thereby reducing installation times. Mapei Primer SN, a two-component epoxy pre-filled primer, was applied to both existing and new substrates, and technologically advanced self-smoothing cementitious floor, Mapei Ultratop, was then installed. The system provides an anthracite-toned abrasion-resistant surface, ideally suited to the heavy traffic environments.

Imperial War Museum London’s new First World War Galleries

Foster + Partners as Architects

As part of the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War, impressive new galleries centred on a new atrium have been unveiled today at the Imperial War Museum. These new public spaces represent the first phase of a long-term redevelopment project, which will improve access and circulation through the Museum, open the interiors to daylight and views, and create new connections with the surrounding park.

The heart of the building is a generous new atrium, which provides a dramatic space in which to view the largest objects from the Museum’s collection. The relationship between these exhibits and the surrounding galleries has been completely redefined – the Harrier jet, Spitfire, V2 rocket and other iconic objects are suspended to correspond with the gallery displays on each of the floors for the first time. Viewed from the upper levels, the aircraft are framed by a series of large-scale concrete fins. These fins line the atrium and widen as they rise to provide structural support for the aircraft, extended gallery floors and barrel vaulted roof. Terraces between the fins open up visual connections vertically and across the central space, and a new gallery floor suspended beneath the dome of the roof protects the exhibits from direct sunlight. The galleries have been completely reconfigured, with a new chronological arrangement designed to be more intuitive. The new First World War Galleries, with interiors by Casson Mann, are located at ground level, and the top floor of the building will eventually be dedicated to current conflicts. Vertical circulation has also been redesigned to make the connections between floors more visible – a new cantilevered stair forms the backdrop to the atrium. Rather than encroaching on the exhibition space, the café and shop have now been relocated to the new, lower entrance level at ground floor. The previously sealed ground floor windows along the western façade have been opened up to allow views into the museum, as well as views of the park from the atrium. The café can now be used outside of the Museum’s opening hours, and its seating extends into the park to create an open air dining area. The floor of the atrium has been lowered to park level, in anticipation of a future phase of development, in which the approach to the building will be scooped out to create a single, accessible entrance for all below the existing portico stair. The current entrance staircase is temporary and will be removed when the new approach sequence is complete. 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. Spencer de Grey, Head of Design at Foster + Partners: “Our project for the Imperial War Museum makes an important contribution to our ongoing work in historic buildings. 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.” Michael Jones, Senior Partner, Foster + Partners: “It is a privilege to work with the Imperial War Museum to commemorate this important centenary – the process of learning about the collection and working with the Museum’s curators and staff has been fascinating. Today’s events are an important milestone in the long-term regeneration of the building, a project that will transform the experience for visitors and establish a new relationship with the surrounding park, which will benefit both.”


Knauf AMF as Manufacturers

The Imperial War Museum was founded during the First World War. It was opened on 9 June, 1920. It has weapons, vehicles and aircraft on exhibit, along with more than 15,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures that portray the wartime experiences of people of all social classes in all countries of the British Empire. The museum‘s 50 million euro renovation began in autumn 2012. It reopened on July 17, 2014.

Imperial War Museum in London lowers noise with HERADESIGN® acoustic panels A war museum with top-notch exciting exhibits and outstanding acoustics. 3600 square meters of HERADESIGN® fine wood wool acoustic panels keep the volume. At appropriate levels in the renovated Imperial War Museum in London. Thanks to high sound absorption levels, visitors can concentrate, enjoy the quiet and let the thousands of exhibits from the two world wars sink in undisturbed. The matte black surface of the panels is also reflection-free, so that the exhibits are also perfectly presented. Gargantuan howitzers, century-old rifles, original uniforms worn by the British military and shot-up road signs as witnesses of the two world wars: all this is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London, one of the world‘s most important war museums. In the autumn of 2012, the museum invested an appropriate amount of money - £ 40 million, just over € 50 million - in the construction of new exhibition spaces that Prince William officially opened in person on 17 July 2014.

Before the opening, the architects from the British architectural firms Wilson Mason LLP had to overcome some hurdles, especially controlling the acoustics of the growing museum. The new exhibition spaces, café and galleries upstairs all had to open into the large atrium that is flooded with natural light. The architects knew that they needed a clever acoustic solution on the ceilings to prevent noise from visitors, tours and all the interactive displays from being drawn into the atrium, where it would cause a hideous cacophony. The architects also knew that this kind of acoustic environment would quickly annoy and discourage visitors and make museum visits unnecessarily stressful.

„We wanted a monolithic ceiling with acoustic properties“ In order to make the museum an acoustically pleasing place, Clive Semark from ITC Concepts, who headed up the renovation, began by looking for suitable acoustic panels. “We wanted a monolithic ceiling with acoustic properties“, explained Semark. “HERADESIGN® was a perfect fit, the finished ceilings look excellent.“ Semark chose the HERADESIGN® fine wood wool acoustic panels. They have excellent sound absorption properties and can be installed easily on the ceilings. They come in any colour, making it a perfect fit for the design.

Wood wool acoustic panels improve audibility The single layer magnesite bonded wood wool acoustic panels with a fibre width of two millimetres not only look good, but also absorb annoying sound. Even they are only between 15 and 35 millimetres thick, they have a sound absorption coefficient of αw = 0.90, sufficient for sound absorption class A. The acoustic panels absorb noise so effectively that they ensure a pleasant acoustic environment in the exhibition rooms and conversations are possible at room volume, even when the museum is full of visitors.

“The acoustic elements reduce the level of an output signal by 60 decibels within 0.4 seconds,“ explains Andreas Bluemel, Head of Product Management at HERADESIGN®. “This makes it much easier to understand people speaking in the room.“

Acoustic optimisation on 3600 square meters ceiling surface A total of 3600 square meters of wood wool acoustic panels were installed in the new exhibition rooms, spread over four floors. The acoustic solution is used in the new gallery, where paintings and photos show the history of the First World War from the perspective of the British military and British society. The drywaller installed the panels directly onto a metal substructure and adapted them to all of the exposed building installations.

HERADESIGN® acoustic elements have the necessary flexibility. The panels are available in popular formats between 600 x 600 and 1250 x 625 millimetres and are easy to cut to the desired size and shape with jig saws, routers, or a hand saw. Alternatively, the panels can be installed on wooden structures or CD profiles for direct fitting onto the substrate. The installer then coats the screws with the included paint in the desired RAL colour, rendering them invisible. The result is a monolithic ceiling that looks like a single piece of material. “The drywall installers benefit from a system that is easy to handle,“ says product manager Bluemel. “In this respect, it is streets ahead of many competing solutions.“

Matt black draws attention to exhibits The architects opted for a simple, matte black colour. Installation cables, lights and ventilation shafts are also in matt black, so the ceiling acts as a unified whole, and helps visitors to concentrate on the exhibits. Another advantage: Matte black wood wool acoustic panels do not produce any reflections. They prevent unintended reflections on the exhibits and information displays. Visitors can enjoy the exhibits in complete relaxation without any annoying reflections. This prevents visitors‘ eyes from getting tired, even after spending a long time at the museum. “We are very proud that we were able to make a contribution to the new Imperial War Museum in London with our product,“ said Blumel.

Active contribution to sustainability forestry The wood wool acoustic panels fine set a new benchmark in terms of sustainability. The FSC label, awarded by the non-profit non-governmental organization Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), confirms that the wood used comes exclusively from responsibly managed forests. Unfortunately, not everyone does this. According to Greenpeace, up to 19 percent of timber imports into the European Union, come from companies that log timber illegally, destroying flora and fauna in the process. The FSC-certified wood wool acoustic panels from HERADESIGN® helped the architects make an active contribution to sustainable global forest management.

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