Royal Airforce Museum, Midlands
In Brief

Bridgnorth District Council


Construction value:

July 2006

RAF Cosford houses the world’s first exhibition dedicated to documenting the social, political and military conflicts of the Cold War. The dramatic structure houses 17 large aircraft - the biggest with a wing span of some 50 metres - missiles, historic artefacts, models and interactive displays to convey the full depth and breadth of this complex period of modern history.

The aircraft, previously exhibited outdoors, will now be preserved in a humidity-controlled environment using low energy conservation heating and natural ventilation.

Design Approach
The smooth lines of the aluminium standing seam roof dominate the sculptural form of the building's exterior.

Straight trusses form the primary structure of the building. Each truss is misaligned from one to the next to define a hyperbolic parabola. The transformation from this linear geometry to a curvilinear geometry is achieved by twisting each section of structural along its length as it spans between trusses.

The industrial aesthetic of the interior is one of stark contrasts: dark structural steel supports, bright galvanized decking, daylight entering via a continuous strip of rooflights along the central spine to provide a constantly changing play of light and shadow.

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Two curvilinear triangular volumes meet along a central divide to give physical expression to the titanic struggle of the irreconcilable forces battling in the Cold War. The volumes are forced 30 metres up out of the ground to create a 130m long ‘fault line’ along their adjoining edges with the metaphor continued in the twisted plan geometry of the roof.

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"This striking building presents a stunning spectacle on the windswept airfield and provides an appropriate setting for an evocative experience."
UK Structural Steel Awards 2007 - judges' comments
"Externally the building is stunning, with two offset curvilinear triangular volumes which rise 30 metres above the ground."
Civic Trust Awards Judges
The project represents a real shift in thinking on museum environmental conditions.

Humidity is controlled within the display hall without using energy-intensive air conditioning. Instead we’ve used controlled ventilation, low-level conservation heating, exposed thermal mass and a heavily insulated roof structure. This will keep the historic aircraft protected for many future generations to learn from and enjoy.

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2008 Civic Trust Special Award for Sustainability

2008 Civic Trust Award

2007 RIBA Award

2007 European Steel Awards: The UK Entry

2007 British Construction Industry Awards: Building Award


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"a dynamic and exciting building... fulfilling its client's brief meticulously, economically and extremely satisfactorily. The form and shape of the building entirely represent the demands of its need, content and use."
Michael Manser, Architects' Journal

Structural Engineer:
Michael Barclay Partnership

M&E and Environmental Engineer:
Max Fordham LLP

Landscape Design:
EDCO Design Ltd

Cost Consultant:
Davis Langdon & Everest

Exhibition Designer:
Neil Potter Design Associates

Galliford Try

Hufton+Crow, Helene Binet, DCAE, Amos Goldreich, Michael Barkley Partnership 

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