We were delighted to attend the private opening of two newly completed permanent exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum in London, which will be open to the public from 20th October.

The new Second World War and Holocaust galleries implement phase two of the Foster and Partners masterplan for site, which had commenced with a major refurbishment of the atrium and creation of new First World War galleries at the lower level of this Grade II listed building.

DJA were appointed together with our own sub-consultant team of structural and services engineers AECOM and Steensen Varming and acoustic consultants Sound Space Design to design all of the basebuild works required to create the new spaces for these exhibitions across two levels of the building, working closely over the last 5 years with both teams of exhibition designers and IWM’s curatorial and project leadership.

This BIM Level 2 project involved major structural and services interventions to create nearly 3000 square meters of gallery floor space through a combination of a new floor structure inserted into the former cinema and the interconnection and conversion of existing gallery spaces, back of house storage spaces, conference spaces space and former education spaces. The structural work in the cinema required over a year to complete the necessary demolition and major structural alteration works, and these took place directly beneath the existing Holocaust Gallery on level 3, and directly above the First World War galleries on Level 0, both of which remained fully open to the public throughout the entire course of the project. The services work also involved provision for complex temporary services works building-wide to ensure that the building could remain open throughout.

The new galleries build upon the high standards for narrative-based museums set by IWM. The Second World War Gallery (Exhibition Designer: Ralph Applelbaum Associates) provides IWM London for the very first time with a complete exhibition exploring the course of the Second World War from its beginnings to its conclusion, detailed in its full global context and importantly, in parallel with the historical course of the holocaust, which at one point is linked with this exhibition through a double height space connecting the two galleries around a single artefact linked to both narratives. The look and feel of this gallery connects directly to the First World War gallery on the level below, but there is a much greater emphasis within the new exhibition towards connecting artefacts to the personal stories of individuals experiencing all aspects of a global conflict that was of unprecedented scale in all of human history.

The Holocaust Gallery (Exhibition Designer: Casson Mann) sets out the course of the history of the Holocaust from the 1930’s to beyond the Nurembourg trials, ending with an exhibition of survivor testimonies. This new exhibition, informed by the vast amount of new scholarship and study that has taken place since the creation of the previous exhibition, is brightly lit and created as a set of overlapping spaces in shades of blue. This, together with the use of compelling video pieces showing the sites of atrocities as they are today in their natural beauty makes the point that these events did not happen in the shadows. There are personal stories both of victims and, importantly, perpetrators ranging from the familiar to the great many unknown and often unremarkable individuals who became the instruments of this Nazi programme of unspeakable horror.

If you’d like a preview of the exhibition, IWM have released a short video which can be seen here: https://www.iwm.org.uk/preview-of-new-second-world-war-and-the-holocaust-galleries

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