Passive Preservation – Imperial War Museums moves into new high performance archive facility


Paper store archive from the east

A new storage building for collections and records in the care of Imperial War Museums (IWM) is now ready for use, following the completion of an innovative design and build process led by; project managers, Fraser Randall;  Architype; and contractor group, Fabrite.

IWM’s responsibility to preserve over 100 years’ worth of collections for future generations in the best possible environmental conditions and in line with the highest standards of best practice was the catalyst for commissioning the new building. The new facility will bring together over 14,000 linear meters of IWM’s collections into one central repository on the historical conservation area at IWM Duxford. The new store will hold one of the world’s most important collections of artworks, photographs, letters and diaries covering the history of warfare during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The single storey singular box form is designed to complement the existing historic buildings on the site at IWM Duxford. Though simple in form, the oxidised steel façade offers thoughtful detail, consisting of ground-to-roof panels that signify each year of archived collections from 1914 onwards. Perforations in panels denote the quantity of collected documentation, with noteworthy years around wartimes being heavily perforated in accordance with the volume collected.  The plain and uninterrupted patina of the oxidised steel complements the colour and texture of the historic brickwork on the site.

close up of perforations

To ensure the long-term preservation of the collections it is critical that the environmental conditions of the building remained very stable and well within the optimal tolerances for temperature and humidity. Traditionally this has been achieved through a finely tuned balance of complex building services. A Passivhaus strategy offered IWM an opportunity to use a low energy method that guaranteed stable environmental conditions for significantly lower running costs.

The repository is the second completed Passivhaus archive (awaiting certification) for Architype, benefitting from lessons learned to produce a highly refined and efficient building. As such the new archive building boasts the world recordfor an airtightness result of 0.03ach; as well as incorporating pioneering strategic differences from common structural approaches and design strategies.

The new facility is designed to provide for up to 30 years’ expansion of IWM’s unique collections, which tell the human stories of lives engulfed in war and show how conflict has shaped the world in which we all live. The innovative new building will support IWM’s mission to preserve these stories and help future generations to better understand the causes, course and consequences of war.

internal view