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The Wellcome Wing at the Science Museum

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The practice's intention was to reflect the marvellous and surprising nature of science by creating an architecture which amazes and engenders a mood of heightened expectation; a 'theatre of science' in which the drama is the building and its contents.

The creation of this new wing presented a challenge - how to make a museum environment inherently flexible and adaptable, operationally efficient and easy to maintain.

There are five principal components in the brief for the public areas of the new building, within a total area of 10,000m2 - exhibition space, central circulation, a 450-seat imax cinema, catering and retail facilities. A separate conference centre is to be built at the west end of the site.

The building is arranged as a single, column-free volume, within which the exhibition floors and imax cinema are dramatically suspended, flanked by aisles which contain circulation, means of escape and servicing. The boundaries of the central volume are suffused with deep blue light, within which the imax and exhibition floors appear to float.

The structure consists of concrete columns with steel trusses supported by gerberettes. The cantilevered gerberettes shorten the span of the trusses and reduce their depth substantially. Vertical tie rods in the external envelope restrain the cantilevers and transfer their load into the foundations.

The design strategy maximises the future potential of the site by keeping the Wellcome Wing compact and placing the conference centre as a separate building on the frontage facing Queen's Gate.

The Wellcome Wing has been made possible by funding from The Wellcome Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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