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Set to be one of the greatest fin-de-siecle buildings, Benson and Forsyth's Museum of Scotland owes its structure to aha

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Set to be one of the greatest fin-de-siecle buildings, Benson and Forsyth's Museum of Scotland owes its structure to aha. At first sight its structure appears unimportant in comparison with the building's ambitious urban, programmatic and spatial effects, and certainly there is no overall structural theme as at, say, the National Botanical Garden of Wales. However, just as the story of Scotland reveals itself gradually through the building, so the structural ideas of the building slowly become apparent: without an extraordinarily pragmatic and flexible approach, the enticing and inspiring spaces could not be created.

Each element is bespoke and was individually calculated, says aha's Tony O'Neill, and there is no uniform grid supporting the three wings, central core and orientation core. There are very thick flat-slab floors taking, typically, loads of up to 10kN/m2, with some areas, such as that for the locomotive, taking 30-40 kN/m2 - way beyond design codes. But the locomotive sets a theme for one area of Scotland's industrial prowess and the structure reinforces that, for instance in a red steel bridge made from 20mm-thick steel plate. Other areas complement the theme of their exhibits with a similar combination of visual and functional structure.

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