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First look: Purcell’s new home for Concorde

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The £19 million aerospace centre has reached practical completion and will open to the public late in the summer

The new, permanent home for a Concorde museum in the UK, Aerospace Bristol, has reached practical completion ahead of opening to the public late in the summer. Purcell, who was appointed in 2014 to work on the site, also carried out a conservation management plan. The heritage museum houses a 61.5m Concorde aeroplane - moved to the site in February 2017 - which visitors can ‘board’ and features a refurbished, listed First World War aircraft hangar, learning suites, archives and workshops. The aircraft had been parked on a runway at Filton Airfield ever since its 2003 farewell flight over Bristol.

The £19 million project received £4.95 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was supported by major companies including Bridgehouse Capital Limited, Airbus and Rolls-Royce. The brief for the exhibits was to inspire visitors to ‘design, make and do’ by making engineering advances accessible. Working closely with exhibition designers Event, Purcell sought a close integration between architectural and exhibition designs, and the design of the buildings lends equal weight to large objects and smaller archival material.

Based at Filton Airfield, the centre brings together the Bristol Aero Collection and houses a rich company archive and artefacts telling the story of the Bristol Aerospace Company since 1910 when entrepreneur Sir George White established the British and Colonial (later, Bristol) Aeroplane Company.

Nottingham-based Focus Consultants was the project manager, cost consultant and funding and business planning advisor. Focus and Purcell worked closely on this project from inception to ensure a close integration of the architectural and exhibition design in both the new bespoke Concorde hangar and the remodelling of the existing hangars.

‘Workbenches’ allow changing activities, facilitated by the Trust’s volunteers and aerospace apprentices. Bespoke plinths lend dynamism and movement to aircraft while showcasing tools, personal items, drawings, animations and photographs. These multi-layered exhibits will evoke the excitement of scientific discovery, the application of new technologies and the people behind the process.

The new Concorde hangar has been designed as BREEAM Very Good and benefits from humidity buffering and a hybrid system to reduce use of mechanical ventilation to these very large volumes. The re-use of the listed First World War hangar includes a thermal upgrade of the building fabric. 

Architect’s view

Filton airfield has two historically important Grade II listed hangars which were built around 1918. They are currently in poor condition, but can easily be repaired and carefully converted into museum space which will show off many of the treasures from the Bristol Aerospace Collection in context and provide much needed facilities for learning and research. Our new hangar concept does not just contain Concorde, it frames it with full height glazed curtain walls enticing visitors inside without giving everything away. Though Concorde is a considerable size, our concept has a minimum footprint so that it does not impose on the surrounding airfield and its contemporary design will complement the existing hangars on the site.

Niall Phillips, head of design, Purcell

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Rogers

    A good thing but unfortunate the Concorde Hall looks rather coffin -like from the air

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