National Space Centre

Grimshaw, Leicester, 2001


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With inflated ETFE bands ringing its complex arched frame, the tower resembles an etiolated version of Bibendum, aka the Michelin Man 

Nathan Willock (website)     Download Original

  • With inflated ETFE bands ringing its complex arched frame, the tower resembles an etiolated version of Bibendum, aka the Michelin Man    
  • Contrasting with the verticality of the tower is a low, flat podium which contains most of the display, education and research facilities and offices    
  • The base of the tower and entrance foyer to the low flat podium building    
  • Inside the exhibition space the Spiral - an organisational device which aids the throughput of visitors - is defined by a change of floor finish    
  • Rockets on display in the tower    
  • Site plan    
  • Level 1 plan    
  • Level 2 plan    
  • Tower section    
  • Long section    
  • Screen and wall details    
  • Detail section through screen and wall    

Landmark Millennium project which combines an exhibition venue with a new centre for education and research and aims to promote public interest in space science

Located on a former brownfield site on the north bank of the River Soar, the National Space Centre occupies the shell of a disused storm-water tank. An outer layer of perforated metal homogenises the structure's external appearance, but as the visitor approaches the centre the varying opacity of the building's skin is revealed.

The principal volume of the centre contains the main public attractions and also houses the administrative, teaching and research facilities connected with the university. It is a large double-height space built on a lightweight arrangement of exhibition display systems.

This building is visually related to the entrance boulevard by the spiralling geometry of its landscaped roof plane. This spiral culminates in the geodesic dome of the planetarium, which perforates the hollow-ribbed concrete roof slab and acts as a foil to the soaring vertical form of the Rocket tower.

Visually, the Rocket Tower dominates the building. The dimensions of its exhibits have defined the volume of the tower, with its highest point dictated by that of the largest rocket installed. The envelope is highly efficient, enclosing a complex three-dimensional space with ETFE cladding pillows and minimal secondary support mechanisms.


  • Begun: Mar 1999
  • Completed: 2001
  • Floor area: 7,600m2
  • Sectors: Education, Sports and leisure
  • Total cost: £1.8M
  • Tender date: Jan 1999
  • Procurement: JCT 98 with Quantities
  • Address: Exploration Drive, Leicester, LE4 5NS, United Kingdom

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