Potteries Museum Spitfire Exhibition Hall, Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent City Council wanted to celebrate the fact that the original designer of the iconic Spitfire was born and raised in the city with the dedicated display of one of the aircrafts. This would require an extension to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery to house the new exhibit and provide a lasting legacy for the city.
The scheme required the design and delivery of a new, exhibition hall to be built as an extension to the existing Potteries Museum and Art Gallery to house the Spitfire aircraft. The demolition of part of the café would be necessary in order to create a physical link between the new exhibition hall and the existing building, in addition to refurbishment to the remaining part of the café and external landscaping around the museum.
Perfect Circle was appointed as Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s multi-disciplinary construction consultant through Scape Group’s Built Environment Consultancy Services (BECS) framework to deliver all services.
Due to project timescales, limited time was available for a full range of surveys and investigations to be completed. These time pressures were further compounded by the discovery of a gas main running directly below the ground, requiring its diversion to be planned, approved and executed before construction of the extension could proceed.
The area has a history of being used for coal mining, which presented a number of challenges to the design team, which were overcome by close collaboration between key stakeholders, and specialist supply chain geotechnical design input. Careful consideration had to be given for the presence of voids and for selecting the correct designs for the building foundations and structural designs.
Since this scheme would be creating an extension to an existing museum, the project demanded engagement and smart collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including the city mayor, planning offers, and museum curator, along with the special interest group responsible for restoring the Spitfire itself. As well as this, numerous historical artefacts needed protection from the potential effects of construction, such as vibrations from ground investigations.
The museum café and theatre also needed to remain operational throughout site investigations and enabling works to limit the overall duration of the shutdown period.
The fast appointment of the multi-disciplinary team, including a harmonious collaboration with expert tourism and leisure architect Glancy Nicholls, via Perfect Circle’s well-established SME supply chain allowed the completed concept and detailed designs to be delivered on time and in line with Scape Group’s BECS framework performance indicators despite the challenging fast-track process.
By collaborating with the design and build contactor, Perfect Circle was able to accelerate delivery and recover time lost due to the discovery of the gas main and its subsequent diversion. By issuing subcontractor packages during the council’s approvals process, the team were able to mobilise main construction commencement immediately after the project was granted full approval.
Due to the challenging ground conditions, it was determined that piling deep through the layers of made ground would achieve the structural stability required for the extension. The building itself has been designed to enhance this stability further, with a lightweight structural design and use of the existing building as a retaining structure, supplemented by other structural design details.
A client centric approach was adopted to ensure that all stakeholder aspirations were being met. This included a coordinated communications and review strategy. The team also worked in close consultation with the museum curator and ground investigations contractor to ensure that the level of vibrations from works would have no negative impact on artefacts already housed within the museum.
This consultation resulted in the simple building design, using maximum glazing and harnessing the elevation of the site to showcase the Spitfire, with the inclusion of a mezzanine platform within the hall to allow aerial views of the aircraft. The site around the museum has also been designed to improve the aesthetics and accessibility for those walking to and around the site through the creation of new pedestrian links between the streets running alongside the site. This will add tangible value and energise the community, providing them with a centre piece to be proud of.
Additional socio-economic benefits come from the project designs clear influences of the area’s pottery history, leading to the use of ceramic materials for interior finishes from a local supplier, thereby supporting the local economy and promoting inclusivity.