The Holocaust Gallery, Imperial War Museum

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Credit: Hufton & Crow

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.

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Credit: Hufton & Crow

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Credit: Hufton & Crow

Phases 2A and 2B of the Foster Masterplan for IWML were combined in 2016 to create a single project to create two new galleries telling the story of Britain and the Commonwealth during the Second World War and that of the Holocaust. These galleries, which opened in November 2021, have built upon the high standards for narrative based museums set by IWM in its First World War Galleries.

The overall project consisted of the design, construction and exhibition fit out of these new galleries within the Grade II listed building, together with a refresh of the Second World War Atrium Terrace displays. Alongside the new galleries, the project also included the creation of new learning and events spaces on Levels 1 and 2.

DJA were appointed as Lead Consultants for the gallery basebuild design team under a multi-discip­linary arrangement where we had put together a team of sub-consultants including structural engineers David Rafferty of Mason Navarro Pledge and Steensen Varming as mechanical, electrical and lighting engineers.

Leading this multidiscip­linary team, we collab­orated to provide a fully detailed spatial, structural and services design for the base build infra­structure works in accordance with the exhibitions design and fit out require­ments. This involves working around existing and new structural inter­ven­tions, reusing existing plant rooms and risers where possible in order to distribute services and enable the vision for the galleries to take shape.

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Credit: Hufton & Crow

The project involved working with two separate exhibition design teams, to develop two distinct but interlinked galleries.

Our team sought to fully understand the creative vision and narrative of each exhibition design to develop meaningful visitor flow, and constructive solutions for the built fabric and systems serving the galleries.

To create these spaces, we needed to open up the existing fabric to create more than 2,500m2 of internal floor area over two floors, knitting together existing structures of different ages and construc­tions and inserting major structural inter­ven­tions to create additional floor space. Former back of house storage areas, teaching and schools spaces, conference rooms, the central cinema and two self-contained galleries were all subsumed into the overall footprint. Many of which were on different part-level heights, neces­sit­ating consid­er­ation of ramps and access­ib­ility within the wider circulation.

Crucially, we managed to create workable spaces without needing to carry out any work to the existing foundations, although some works to remove existing internal loadbearing walls were very complex.

The two floors of galleries under construction were sandwiched between the First World War exhibition on Level 0 and the previous Holocaust Galleries on Level 3. Both of these Galleries were fully open to the public throughout the works, including a phase of demolitions lasting around seven months, except for when the Museum was forced to close because of the pandemic.

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Credit: Hufton & Crow

A three year design process involved numerous meetings with many different stake­holders to ensure coordin­ation and commu­nic­ation between the various teams that were required to create the new exhibitions including: the Museum’s internal team of project managers, curators, collections and conser­vation staff, and academic review panels, film and media producers and mountmakers; Project Managers, Cost consultants, AV systems designers, Access Consultants, Fire Engineers, and the appointed Approved Inspectors; the exhibitions design teams with their sub-consultant lighting designers, graphics consultants, inter­actives designers, soundscape designers, film and media producers.

The result are two exper­i­en­tially contrasting spaces, with inextricably linked themes. IWM Lambeth is the first museum in the world to house both displays under the same roof.

In 2022, the galleries won Museums + Heritage Permanent Exhibition of the Year Award.

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Credit: Hufton & Crow