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The Bristol Brunel Engineering Museum

Part 2 Project 2012
Lee Holcombe
University of Bath, UK
The design brief was for a museum of engineering in the city of Bristol, which in part was to house a permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Other aspects of the scheme design included a flexible modern engineering exhibition shed, and a new transport interchange component as part of the wider masterplan agenda devised prior to the design work.

The project follows on from my research paper that explored the phenomenon of the abandoned building experience, with a particular focus on the industrial building typologies found across the UK and in Germany. The aim was to explore how elements of the abandoned building experience could be translated into new architecture, and whether this could be used to achieve an altogether more enriched and sensually integrated interaction between the building and its user.

The Brunel museum building is designed around the artefact, where the spaces, atmospheres and journey are all choreographed to help enforce the underlying narrative of the exhibit. The building takes the visitor on a fully immersive journey through the works, where building and artefact combine for an enriched story-telling experience, starting in the raw metal ‘Field of Steel’ hall space, and ending in the sunken ‘flooded hull’ of the building.

Standing adjacent to Brunel’s original ‘Temple Meads’ terminus buildings, the scheme celebrates a new landscaped gateway to the city aiming to draw attention to, and inspiration from, the undervalued industrial heritage of the site and Brunel’s presence within the city.

The design re-interprets Brunel’s historic ‘Harbour Railway’ link that once cut through the site, manifest in aspects of the building and landscape design, integrating the spirit and achievements of this great Victorian engineer within the public realm and wider landscape once again.

Lee Holcombe


Mr Alex Wright
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