The Redevelopment of the National Army Museum
The National Army Museum has recently re-opened following a three year, £23.75 million redevelopment project, including £11.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The redevelopment has created a world-class museum, delivering a fresh, informative and exciting visitor experience which is physically and intellectually accessible for all.
The museum has gone through a radical transformation to maximise access to and engagement with the Collection. The main Chelsea site has been reconfigured with architects BDP and design agency Event to create a more welcoming, accessible and flexible environment, enabling the National Army Museum to manage increasing visitor figures, which are predicted to reach 400,000 by 2026.
The project provided the museum with the opportunity to upgrade and expand its existing building to meet the needs of its growing audience. The existing building occupied 9,500sqm of space and a further 500sqm has been provided by a new two-storey extension. The project also delivered seven separate galleries with 2,200sqm of exhibition space across six permanent galleries, plus a new 500sqm temporary exhibition gallery. In addition, education and learning spaces, café, retail and both front and back of house support spaces are provided.
The final scheme sought to refresh and modernise the existing facades, but take a conservation-led approach in doing so. This approach then extended to the appearance and detailing of the new side extension. The front facades have been opened up at pedestrian level and now include significant amounts of glazing, a new main entrance and generous foyer. Building levels have been lowered to enable equality of access directly from the street and new forecourt. Public facilities such as the café have also been brought to the front of the building where they can benefit from natural lighting and contribute to the life of the street.
The language of the façade takes cues from the previous Holford design. The expressed concrete frame and cornice is retained and the in-fill brick panels are re-interpreted in an arrangement of advanced and recessed planes, the latter in stacked soldier bond. Incorporated in to this are flush-glazed picture windows that articulate the corners of the building and provide connections between gallery spaces and military Chelsea.
The forecourt landscaping has been overhauled with Yorkshire paving unifying the new public space with the pavement. In contrast to the rigour of the paving grid, a number of free-form planters have been deployed that follow visitor movement patterns and provide opportunity for rest and reflection.
Internally the major change has been the introduction of a new central atrium that runs from the front to the rear of the building. The atrium is staggered across all floors to create a dynamic space that opens up vistas into and through the depth of the building, providing the visitor with a central point of orientation from which all the main galleries and public facilities are visible.
The café, retail, cloakroom and other support facilities are arranged around the atrium at ground floor. ‘Play Base,’ an interactive play area for the museum’s younger visitors is also located here. The café has been developed with the museum and operator to provide a series of welcoming, discreet areas that provide the flexibility to accommodate all visitors throughout the day. The retail design similarity provides the museum with a flexible framework within which merchandise can be displayed to maximum effect.
The project has recently been shortlisted for two awards in the 2018 RICS Awards. The National Army Museum Redevelopment has been shortlisted for awards in the Community Benefit and Tourism & Leisure categories. Winners of the awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on 16th May.