Studio Libeskind

Imperial War Museum, Manchester

The Imperial War Museum of the North, dealing with the conflicts that have shaped the Twentieth Century, and which will continue to shape the future, is sup­ported by a broad vision. The building must bring together culture and regeneration, craft and design, in order to give the public a striking emblem which in an instant illuminates both tradi­tion and the new.

As Paul Valery pointed out, the world is permanently threatened by two dangers: order and disor­der. This project develops the realm of the in between, the inter-est, the realm of democratic openness, plurality and potential.

Imperial War Museum, Manchester - Studio Libeskind

By navigating the course be­tween rigid totalities on one hand, and the chaos of events on the other, this building reflects an evolving identity open to pro­found public participation, access and education.

The museum is therefore a catalyst for focussing energies, both entrepreneurial and spiritual, and moulding them into a creative expression. If Henry Adams were writing today he would add to the Virgin and the Dynamo, the Museum, for it is the cultural dynamo transform­ing the past into the New Millen­nium.

The importance of this act of construction is underscored by the recreation of the entire Traf­ford region – urban regeneration, job creation, tourist spending. But beyond the demands for integra­tion and quality, the IWM-N will offer substance for the imagina­tion and the daring of the unex­pected. The IWM-N will provide new answers to all programs, invent new connections between the building and its surroundings and become an instantly recog­nisable, memorable place of encounter.

Use of Galvanized Steel in the Imperial War Museum of the North

The high Air Shard creates a dramatic view of the mu­seum and attracts visitors from all over the northern region. Visitors can view out from a 29m high viewing platform over the Canal to the skyline of Manchester.
Only through the use of galvanized steel could the high demands on architecture, function and cost could be achieved.


The Air Shard is the main entrance to the museum. The exposed galvanized steel structure in the Air Shard relates the museum to the former industrial har­bour of the Manchester Ship Canal. The aging patina of the galvanized tubes connects the building to its his­torical contents. The galvanizing of the steel structure creates a homogenous web of lines that challenges the visitor’s views and weaves the experience of the Air Shard into the visitors total experience of the mu­seum.


The interior of the Air Shard is exposed to external weather through open slots in the fac;ade. The offsite galvanizing of the steel provides a durable coating that could also withstand the process of site erection without the need of repair.


The single offsite coating with zinc avoided the compli­cated and costly process of multiple painting coats. Through the use of England’s largest galvanizing bath the 21 m long single steel columns could be galvanized in one cost-effective application. Galvanized cover plates of node connections created a smooth appear­ance avoiding the need for site welding.
The low maintenance of exposed galvanized steel re­duces the running cost of the museum.


The Imperial War Museum – North is a building dealer with the ravages and implications of world conflict. The concept for the project is that of a globe shattered into fragments, reassembled on that site as an iconic emblem of conflict.

The building is a simple interlocking of three shards, represent­ing Earth, Air and Water, constituting the various functions of the Museum. The entire composition is grounded in the narration of a landscape designed to show 24 time gardens giving the public immediate topographical orientation within the matrix of global­ised conflict. The site is on the Manchester Ship Canal, an area adjacent to the Manchester United Football grounds, currently undergoing major economic and commercial regeneration.

Images © Ian Lawson

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