Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum North is an ideal candidate for the nomination of “Greatest Museum Building in the last 25 years” for a variety of different reasons. Architect Daniel Libeskind was not only impressive in his design, but clever for the concept symbolized by his design. The geographic location could not have been better chosen, for the building is said to be both an excellent view for on comers, and provides an excellent view for the inside. The Museums themed purpose also has a special connection with the history of the location the museum is in. Also, proof of the museums popularity can be found when looking at the amount of visitors that came to see the museum in its first year of operation. In addition, the particular theme of the building is unique and this theme also identifies with the unique design of the building.

Building Location

The building is specifically located on Trafford Wharf Road Manchester M17 1TZ in Great Britain. But, specifically the building is conveniently located just a few blocks East of the large Trafford Ecological Park, surrounded on the South and West by large and highly traveled highways, and bordered on the North by the Manchester ship canal. The fact that the building is near a large park gives a taste of nature in an urban surrounding. Next, the location of the large travel paths so close to the building means that many people passing by will be able to enjoy the aesthetically pleasing formation of the building, and this may pursue many people who may have not given it a thought, a reason to visit the museum. Finally, the border of water on the North side of the building seems to almost welcome you to the entrance of the building, not to mention increase the value of the view from the inside.

Furthermore significance is revealed in regards to the building location when considering the fact that the Manchester ship canal was heavily bombed in 1940 during the Manchester Blitz. Approximately 75,000 people were employed near the Manchester ship canal by 1945, and the majority of them were involved in the manufacturing of war related items such as Avro Lancaster Heavy Bombers, and Roll-Royce Merlin aero engines. This was directly related to the locations bombing in 1940 in which 684 people were killed in. The purpose of the building is to reveal, exploit, educate, and inform the world of the effects of war, and what better a location then somewhere that has already been directly involved and affected in World War II. The location of the Imperial War Museum North is not only excellent in its present connection to the city, but also its significant connection and relevance to the history of the city.

Building Statistics/Philosophy of Design

In addition to the impressive geographical location of the Imperial War Museum North, the actual physical statistics of the building are also remarkable. The Imperial War Museum North has a building area of 69,965 square feet, with an original estimated construction cost of only $60 million. Although the budget was at one time redesigned the project was completed on time and in budget. The Museum is made up of three main pieces or “shards” each with their own representation and purpose. The three pieces are interlocking shards, one representing earth, the other air, and the third piece water. These shards are supposed to represent “a globe shattered into fragments and then reassembled as an ionic emblem of conflict” (Studio Daniel Libeskind:Imperial War Museum North, 2010). Basically, representing world conflict found in the air, water and sky. Considering the fact that the museum is a museum of war, the particular theme of the building's design fits it very well. The building brings both an order and chaos to the table, very similar to war. In addition to the representation of the building components, these individual components also serve as individual physical functions. The earth shard forms the museum space and is supposed to “signify the open, earthly realm of conflict and war” (Studio Daniel Libeskind:Imperial War Museum North, 2010). The air shard, which is open to the elements, forms the impressive 55 meter high entry and includes observatories and education space. Finally, the water shard, which is located closest to the water, contains a restaurant, performance space, a café, deck, and a 29 meter high viewing platform of the canal.


The Imperial War Museum North was first thought up in 1997, completed by 2001, and opened in 2002. The unique building is the first in the UK to have been designed by “internationallyacclaimed architect” Daniel Libeskind. The general contractor on the project was Sir Robert McAlpine, Ltd and did an excellent job overcoming the challenging building design. Because the building has the theme of a shattered earth with the three shards basically being randomly connected together the building has many curvy regions with complex angles and connections not normally found in your average construction. This nature of the building definitely added to its difficulty of construction but was overcome by precise and well planned prefabrication of many of the buildings components.

History of the Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum North is actually the newest addition to the national multi-branch of imperial war museums on six different sites. The first imperial war museum was founded in 1917 to record and preserve the history of the Great War. The imperial war museum then went on to expand in the future to cover topics such as the World Wars and acquired specific sites with relevance to war. The imperial War Museum North is not a physical addition to any imperial war museums of the past, but is an entirely new museum in a new location. Currently the unique design of the building allows for what is called “The Big Picture Show”. Every 20 minutes the lights are dimmed in the main portion of the museum and all 360 degrees of the museum becomes a theater in which a war related movie is projected on the strategically curved walls resulting in an experience in which many visitors have been extremely touched by. The Big Picture is truly an innovative and adaptive use of the museum space in which in which 20 screens that are 5 meters high are played upon by 60 projectors. The movies can be so exhilarating and moving that the museum actually warns the guests prior to the screenings of
the movie in order to ensure that those who cannot handle it will have enough time to evacuate. This creative incorporation of the building into the museum experience is another
reason the building can be considered such a model of excellent architecture.

Architectural Style

The particular architectural style of the Imperial War Museum North is unique and different from what is typically seen, but fairly typical for Daniel Libeskind. The architectural style of the Imperial War Museum North is considered to be defragmented. Defragmentation, also sometimes referred to deconstructionism is a form of architectural design in which the normal straight line building design is almost completely abolished. The Imperial War Museum North is almost a perfect example of this style. Again, the building is considered to be three fragments, which are basically shards (fairly complex pieces with significant curvature and complex angles), just combined together. This unique and complex design of Libeskind is very clever in the fact that it is not only aesthetically appealing, but it creates a theme or the building, and adds to the overall museum experience.

Works Cited

Studio Daniel Libeskind:Imperial War Museum North. (2010). Retrieved March 15, 2010, from Studio Daniel Libeskind:

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