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AEW reveals Southend museum plans

[FIRST LOOK + PLANS] AEW Architects has revealed the first images of its proposed £35 million museum in Southend-on-Sea

The Manchester-based practice submitted plans for its competition-winning scheme, which will be built into the cliffs and showcase Southend’s Saxon King treasure, late last month.

According to a spokesman for AEW, the 20,000m² scheme on Western Esplanade will be as much ‘a part of the landscape as it is a container’ creating ‘a truly unique and individual presence within the site’ but also ‘unashamedly stands out’.

The architects view by associate director, Andrew Titterton at AEW architects

I must admit, my first thought upon hearing that we had won the commission was ‘oops, how am I going to make this work?’

With a change in level across the site of more than 26m, early consideration was given to different ways of approaching and entering the building. Other concerns included impact upon the adjoining conservation area. In essence, we didn’t want any, so we decided to ensure no built form above pavement level to Clifftown Parade.

The museum is positioned within the landscape, gradually exposing itself as a series of dynamic shapes. We call these shapes ‘eye-lids’ with reference to an eye-lid dormer window, the sloping site being the roof. From the outset it was clear that the exterior form would provide us with a great opportunity to maximise both energy efficiency and occupant experience.

The triangular faceted ‘eye-lids’ produce downward-looking reflections of the Cliff Gardens, the Western Esplanade and the Thames Estuary beyond. Limestone wraps around the glass to accentuate the curvaceous nature of building.

To the delight of our client, we’ve worked our original concept through to detailed design within budget. I believe the scheme demonstrates a profound understanding of the complexity and uniqueness of the site, not onlypreserving the gardens and historical environment but also by providing an easily identifiable Museum that I think will establish itself as one of the most important in the UK.

Project data

Architects: AEW architects, Manchester
Location: Southend-on-Sea
Type of Project: museum
Structural Engineers: Buro Happold
Project Architect: Andrew Titterton
Design Team: AEW, Buro Happold, Turner & Townsend, JMP, 24 Acoustics, SES
Client: Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Gross internal floor area: Approximately 20,000m²
Total cost: £35million (Museum element)   
M&e consultant: Buro Happold
Quantity surveyor: Turner & Townsend
Planning supervisor/CDMC: Turner & Townsend       

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