A step inside the mind of the iconic innovator & leader
A step inside the mind of the iconic innovator & leader

Being Brunel Museum

SS Great Britain, Bristol

Bringing together the life and works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel


The project involved linking Brunel’s one-time drawing office with an entirely new structure, that mimicked the dockside buildings of the day, blending seamlessly into the existing area.

It also incorporates a cafe, enabling visitors to enjoy a drink or light bite overlooking the harbour.

The resulting museum, which sits alongside the SS Great Britain, the first propellor-driven, ocean-going iron ship, provides visitors with an opportunity to see the breadth and depth of Brunel’s works in one place, and has an extraordinary feature - a giant Brunel head - a fitting tribute to a man who was anything but ordinary!

Externally it complements the existing Dockyard vernacular on the South side, yet provides a striking modern building on the North side

Mike Day, Being Brunel Project Manager, SS Great Britain Trust






SS Great Britain Trust


Alec French Architects

Quantity Surveyor

Chappell Chartered QS

Form of Contract

JCT Standard
without Quantities


  • Protection of the historic dock wall was paramount.
  • As the Number One visitor attraction in Bristol, it was essential that the visitor experience was not disrupted by the project.
  • The access to the strip of land on which the museum was built was not only narrow but also located within the courtyard of the attraction - visited by some 20,000 visitors each year.


A system of continuous monitoring of the dock wall was instigated to ensure its protection.

An in-depth analysis of visitor patterns was undertaken to enable us to avoid busy periods and minimise the impact of the construction.

In collaboration with Clarkebond we reviewed the design of the foundations, enabling us to reduce the required excavation by 50%, this meant less waste removal enabling us to reduce our carbon-footprint as well as reducing the loading on the dock wall.


  • Winner RICS South West Construction Awards 2019 & shortlisted for the RICS National Award (Tourism & Leisure category) 
  • Winner Bristol Property Awards 2019, Best Civic Development 
  • Highly Commended in the South West Built Environment Awards 2018, Building Project of the Year
  • Winner Heritage & Museum Awards 2019, Best Permanent Exhibition 
  • Winner European Museum of the Year 2019, Europe's most welcoming museum