Aerospace Bristol

Purcell makes a home for Concorde at a new aviation museum


Designed by Purcell, Aerospace Bristol opened to the public on 17 October. Based on the former Filton Airfield – one of the birthplaces of the British aviation industry – the centre tells the story of the Bristol Aerospace Company, which began life in 1910 as the British and Colonial (later, Bristol) Aeroplane Company, as well as exhibiting cutting-edge aerospace technology.


All photos: Quintin Lake

‘‘Our design for this museum does two main things”, says Purcell’s Úna Breathnach Hifearnáin. “Firstly, it inserts exhibition bays and visitor facilities into a grade-2-listed first-world-war hangar, while retaining and making the most of the original qualities of the hangar, which are frugal materials and monolithic beauty. Secondly, it provides a home for Concorde GBOAF, fitting this very special aircraft’s form like a glove.’’


The refurbished three-bay first world war aircraft hangar – which now accommodates a heritage museum, learning suites and workshops – is furnished with ‘workbenches’ that 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”, says the architect. “These multi-layered exhibits will evoke the excitement of scientific discovery, the application of new technologies and the people behind the process”. Purcell worked closely with exhibition designers Event on the integration of architecture and displays.


The new hangar in which visitors can board and explore Concorde was purpose-designed to accommodate the 61.5m-long plane. The example exhibited is Concorde Alpha Foxtrot – the last of the iconic supersonic passenger jets to be built, and the last to fly.


The £19m project received £4.95m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was supported by private companies including Bridgehouse Capital, Airbus and Rolls-Royce. Nottingham-based Focus Consultants acted as project manager, cost consultant and funding and business planning advisor.

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

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