Saturday, 26 March 2011

Imperial War Museum North

Libeskind's War Museum is strangely compelling. I was thrown off-guard as soon as I entered because all the lights turned off and the huge interior white walls were covered in projections, in videos of recollections/documentaries of past conflicts. These presentations are presumably meant to be as instantaneous as an air raid siren, where visitors rush for a good seat (bomb shelter) before the videos (bombs) start.

The jagged geometry is meant to convey the chaos, the destruction of war, an architectural message that is hard to argue with. I was speaking to one of the staff and Libeskind originally designed the building to be a lot larger, a lot more jagged, and to be clad in concrete - perhaps to present visitors with a bomb-shelter aesthetic. Budget constraints meant the building is now clad in zinc, which I think will be more future-proof than a concrete structure of the same geometry. The zinc in the picture above almost looks like armour, protecting the museum.

A small entrance fee and I found myself at the top of the building, a viewing gallery looking directly at the BBC's new HQ in Salford, across the river/canal... which may or may not be idyllic enough to force Londoners to leave their jobs at BBC London for a new job at BBC Manchester. This building is very keen to show off its cross-bracing, but the other offices on the site looked very disappointing, dull, grey... not at all suited to one of the most cloudy cities in the UK, and hardly vibrant enough to force people to switch jobs, move families etc to Manchester.

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