The cluster of former military buildings in Colindale, north London, forms part of a renovated ‘museum field’, opening to coincide with the centenary of the RAF
The £23 million project is the realisation of a masterplan by Nex and landscape architects Agence Ter, won by international competition in 2014. New exhibition and visitor facilities have been provided alongside landscaping and improvements to the museum’s connections with the surrounding community.
Located on the edge of what was once the London Aerodrome and then RAF Hendon, the 8ha site has close ties with aviation history. However the RAF Museum needed to reconnect with its local community, as the surrounding area is undergoing transformation with major new housing developments completing.
Improving the public realm with landscaping was at the centre of Agence Ter and Nex’s approach. Treating the entire area as a ‘museum field’ serves to unite the disparate buildings, with circulation and views through organised along runway-like axes that allow visitors to traverse the site from edge to edge. A circular ‘taxiway’ connects all exhibition spaces and facilities.
RAF Museum by Nex—
Set within this green space, Nex’s largest intervention is the refurbishment of a large-span, single-roof hangar from the 1970s, repurposed as the museum’s new entrance galleries and visitor centre. While the aluminium-clad exterior has been retained, a 40m-long entrance with a cantilevered roof canopy signals its new usage.
This hangar is home to a Sunderland flying boat, an exhibit too fragile to move during construction and so requiring the space to be reconfigured around it. Removing a brick entrance and restaurant annexe allowed a single access point for the whole site, and a functional water tank and pump has been reclad to form a marker at the entrance. Here visitors are faced by a new two-storey pavilion at the centre of the hangar – containing a shop, café, toilets and meeting rooms – clad with louvred aluminium fins reminiscent of jet turbines.
Across the museum field, Nex has also restored and refurbished a 1930s RAF supplies building to create a 120-seat restaurant. Bringing this previously derelict building back into use was welcomed by Historic England and was a key factor in attracting HLF funding for the museum redevelopment.
Nex RAF Museum Hangar Visitor Pavilion Axo credit Nex
Completion date June 2018
Project value £23 million
Project size (GIA) 5,242m² (hangar) & 713m² (restaurant)
Client RAF Museum
Structural engineer Techniker
Contractor SDC and Borras Construction
Landscape Architect Agence Ter
MEP engineer E&M Technica
Planning consultant Gerald Eve
Project manager Ridge