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BDP transforms National Army Museum

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The National Army Museum in London has reopened following BDP’s major £24 million renovation and extension

The museum’s 1971 classic Brutalist building, which sits in Royal Hospital Chelsea, home to the Chelsea Pensioners, was purpose-built for the museum by architect William Holford & Partners.

BDP has opened up the previously closed front façade at pedestrian level, adding significant amounts of glazing. The main entrance has been moved from its previous position on one side of the building, and now leads to a generous foyer and atrium.

Externally, the concrete frame and cornice has been refinished with insulated render, and is interspersed with a new panels of handmade grey brick with a pinkish hue. The framing to the curtain-wall glazing is articulated by pale gold cover caps, in contrast to the frameless punched windows.

A new atrium has been cut through the existing floorplates, opening up the plan and enabling the museum to represent its collection of over 2,500 objects. These tell the story of the British Army and its impact on Britain, Europe and the world, through a series of thematic displays. 

Each gallery focuses on a particular theme: Soldier, Army, Battle and Society. These are linked to the introductory gallery, providing an overview of the museum and its collections. The target is to raise visitor numbers to more than 400,000 a year.

Battle gallery and cafe at National Army Museum  London. Courtesy of the National Army Museum 2017. Photographer Paul Raftery  5

Architect’s statement

BDP’s design for the National Army Museum built upon an outline masterplan initially drawn up by Event Communications, the exhibition designer appointed in parallel, to rework the museum displays. Following the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stage 1 award in 2011, BDP was appointed as an interdisciplinary team to develop proposals for the refurbishment of the building.

These proposals were a radical departure from previous ones and required ongoing consultation with the HLF, together with the museum and other stakeholders to ensure all recognised the significant benefits the revised proposals created. The HLF Stage 2 application was submitted and the award granted in accordance with the original programme. The proposals were recognised as significantly enhancing the museum’s application and the HLF award was increased to reflect this success.

The project provides the museum with the opportunity to upgrade and expand its existing building to meet the needs of its growing audiences. BDP’s proposals involve a substantial reordering of the building to achieve maximum accessibility to both building and collections and thus significantly enhance the visitor experience.

The existing building occupies 9,500m² of space and a further 500m² will be provided by the new two-storey extension. The project will deliver seven separate galleries. There will be 2,200m² of exhibition space across six permanent galleries plus a new 500m² temporary exhibition gallery. In addition, education and learning spaces, café, retail and both front and back of house support spaces are provided.

NAM BDP yard elevation

Project data

Client The National Army Museum
Architect BDP (Building Design Partnership)

Environmental services engineering and sustainability BDP
Structural and civil engineering

Acoustic engineering BDP

Lighting design (base build) BDP

Services engineer BDP

Interior design BDP
Landscape design BDP

Exhibition design Event Communications

Project management Focus Consultants

Cost consultant Focus Consultants

Quantity surveying Focus Consultants

CDM coordination
 Focus Consultants

Planning consultancy Turnberry Planning

Heritage consultancy Purcell Miller Tritton
Main contractor Gilbert-Ash Limited

Key subcontractors
Glazing Glassolutions

Rooflights Xtralight

Render Alpine Finishing

Steelwork Alpine Group

Brickwork D&M Boden

External copings and cladding CSE

External metalwork Environmental Fabrications 
Landscaping Kings Landscaping
M&E Stothers

Lifts Stannah, Access Lifts

Kitchen Gratte Brothers

Glass balustrades and handrails BA Systems
Linings, ceiling panels, joinery, doors Essential Designs 
Blinds Waverly

Glazed screens Optima

Cubicles and vanity surfaces TBS Fabrications

Acoustic panels and partitions Acoustic Products 
Acoustic wall panels Accordial

Folding partitions Acoustic Products

Bricks Taylor Maxwell / Coleford 
Brick and tile stone and paving Marshalls

Rubber Nora
Acoustic panels: Topakustik

Tiles Domus

Brassware Armitage Shanks

Sanitaryware Duravit, Ideal Standard and Lovair 
Render Sto
Terrazzo: Quiligotti

Entry doors HP Doors

Roof coverings Alumasc

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