top of page

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North

The IWM North is built on an old W11 bomb site

When IWM decided to build another museum in the North of England, the wartime history of Trafford Park made it stand out as an ideal location. It was here that vital munitions were built for the First and Second World Wars and here that factories churned out munitions, tanks and engines to support the war effort.

Trafford Park was a main target in the Manchester Blitz, which caused extensive damage to factories and warehouses in the area. The site that IWM North stands on today is where the Hovis Grain Silos once stood before they were bombed and burnt down in the Second World War. When the foundations were dug for the museum, shrapnel and an anti-aircraft cartridge shell were found.

site of IWM.jpg
It was the first building in the UK designed by the internationally acclaimed architect, Daniel Libeskind, who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and was recently behind the masterplan for the Ground Zero site in New York. Daniel Libeskind was born in Poland, the second child of Polish Jewish parents who had survived the Holocaust. His insistence that the architecture of a museum should give richer meaning to its subject matter was just what we wanted.
It feels very appropriate to include the exhibit below which is the remains of a window frame  from the Twin Towers - World Trade Centre
Window Frame World Trade Centre
Imports - 9 of 10.jpeg
Libeskind wanted the building to be a symbol of the effects of war, so he came up with the concept of a globe shattered into three pieces – and though it's been put back together,  it will never be the same again. That's why IWM North is made up of the EarthShard, WaterShard and the AirShard – a piece of the building to represent conflict on land, sea and in the air.
Imports - 5 of 10.jpeg

Wave, is a sweeping arch of bright red poppy heads suspended on towering stalks. 

Wave is from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’.  The installation was originally at HM Tower of London from August to November 2014 where 888,246 poppies were displayed, one for every British or Colonial life lost at the Front during the First World War.

Imports - 8 of 10.jpeg
The image above reminded me that some casualties survived but were forever changed.
Imports - 6 of 10.jpeg
Libeskind wanted visitors to the museum to feel the unsettling nature of war. He used a variety of techniques within the architecture to achieve this. The route into the museum itself is confusing, and the curves of the shattered globe that make up the outline of the building also continue inside, affecting how the visitor moves around the museum.
Imports - 3 of 10.jpeg
There is a distinct lack of right angles in the Main Exhibition Space, no natural light, and even the temperature fluctuates at different points – all features intended to intensify the visitors’ experience. The floor of the Main Exhibition Space also slopes down by about eight feet. This is both to mimic the curvature of the Earth and to add to the experience of disorientation.
Imports - 4 of 10.jpeg
Sunatcha always happy to get in on the act
Imports - 1 of 10.jpeg
The WaterShard is the wave-like part of the building. Stunning views across the Manchester Ship Canal can be viewed through the WaterShard's ferry-like windows, which give a nod to the cargo liners that once travelled this route.
bottom of page