American Air Museum
Imperial War Museum Duxford
Cambridgeshire CB2 4QR
Foster and Partners 1997
The American Air
Museum is a self-contained gallery or hangar within the broader aviation
museum that the UK's Imperial War Museum runs at Duxford, a former Royal Air
Force (and United States Air Force) fighter station.
A dramatic contrast
from the museum's other rather more mundane hangars, Foster's £11 million
hangar for the American aircraft at the museum succeeds in meeting the
client's dual requirement of a landmark building but also a neutral
backdrop for the aircraft, which both crowd around the floor and hang
(weighing up to 10 tons each) from steel suspension points in the concrete
The building is a
half-ellipse in plan, and rises from its narrow end, where the low
entrance way is cut into a grass hill, to the tall glass
curtain wall that slices off the ellipse just before its mid point.
The form of the
building was influenced by its dominant exhibit, a B-52 Stratofortress
bomber, whose noses faces yours on the level as you enter the building,
whose 16-meter-high tail fin requires the roof to have risen before
reaching the back of the plane, and whose 61-meter wingspan spreads almost
to the sides of the building.
Another influence on
the design was the museum's use of the airfield to fly its exhibits. The
exhibition doesn't end within the building, and the glass wall looks out
onto other exhibited aircraft using the runway outside. The glass wall is
also demountable, to allow the aircraft in and out.
The detailing throughout the
hangar is clean, precise and minimally expressed: highly satisfying in
itself if you look for it, but more importantly a simple, attractive and
non-interfering background to the aircraft on display.
On occasional flying
weekends during the summer, the American Air Museum looks out onto the
runway and acts as a pavilion from which to watch the crowds and the
Simon Glynn 2002
How to visit
The American Air Museum is open to
the public as part of the Imperial War Museum Duxford. The museum is on the
A505 immediately to the west of the M11 motorway at exit 10, about eight
miles south of Cambridge.
The museum provides
comprehensive visitor information, including opening times, ticket prices
and travel information, at the Duxford section of the Imperial War Museum
web site: http://duxford.iwm.org.uk/.
Alternatively you may call
the museum on +44 1223 835000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books and other web
The Duxford section of the Imperial War Museum
web site at http://duxford.iwm.org.uk/
contains information about the American Air Museum building as well as
about visiting the museum.