Beard-constructed new ‘Being Brunel’ museum to open in March 2018

Beard, Alec French Architects and Workhaus Projects are playing a central role in the delivery of Bristol’s major new museum and visitor experience, Being Brunel, which will open its doors at the end of March next year.

The new national visitor attraction celebrating the life and works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – Britain’s greatest engineer – has been built alongside Bristol’s floating harbour and Brunel’s historic ship SS Great Britain.

Being Brunel will tell the hero engineer’s extraordinary story through never-before-seen personal possessions, as well as interactive exhibits and audio-visual experiences. Central to the new museum is a new harbour-side building constructed by Beard working with Alec French Architects. It has been designed to reflect the façade of original buildings that would have flanked the ship as she was constructed in her Dry Dock in 1840.

Beard is building a steel-frame exhibition hall containing multiple gallery spaces and a mezzanine level, as well as a café. It will connect to the historic Grade II*-listed Dock Office via a first-floor bridge.

Workhaus Projects Ltd are now preparing for the internal fit out, the design of which has been inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851, evoking wonder and invention. Other specialist contractors such as Tiverton-based Warren Hughes are providing joinery services to help recreate the Dock Office as it would have looked in the 1840s.

A range of audio-visual, mechanical and electrical interactives inside the museum will be provided by Pinewood Creative, Wild Creations, Centrescreen, Elbow and Aivaf. Exhibition design is by Easy Tiger Creative.

For example, in one of many experiences on offer visitors will be able to compare their own drawing skills to Brunel’s by climbing on board a broad-gauge railway carriage which sways and vibrates as it ‘travels’. Once on board, passengers can try out Brunel’s rule of thumb for testing the evenness of a railway route: sketching perfect circles by hand sitting in a moving train.

Mike Day, Being Brunel project manager for the SS Great Britain Trust, says: “This is a complex project where our construction team have been working within a historic dockyard alongside the iconic SS Great Britain and Grade II*-listed Dock Office. Reaching the six-month countdown for the new museum is a major milestone and we are grateful for the contribution and expertise of all the contractors involved. There is still more work to be done, but it is fantastic to have this added momentum.”

Mechanical and electrical and structural engineering contracts for this project are being delivered by Max Fordham and Clark Bond. QS from Chappell Chartered Quantity Surveyors & Project Managers. Demolition and enabling works were managed by RM Penny and KP Wilton.

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