American Air Museum

Foster + Partners, Duxford, 1997


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South east facade at dusk 

Nigel Young     Download Original

  • South east facade at dusk    
  • Crowds gather around exterior exhibit    
  • Single span vault roof partially dug into the landscape    
  • Entrance and circulation    
  • entrance tunnel on north-west side    
  • Entrance door using airplane technology    
  • Museum crowds along the viewing balcony    
  • Airplanes part of the museum exhibit    
  • South east facade allows natural daylighting    
  • Single glazed end wall    
  • Glazed south eastern facade    
  • Concrete vault roof    
  • Internal view of museum    
  • Airplanes suspended from the vault roof    
  • Roof lights illuminate the viewing balcony    
  • Hinged foot of the mullion    
  • Site plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • First floor plan    
  • Second floor plan    
  • Roof plan    
  • Short section    
  • Long section    
  • Grid plan of concrete components    
  • Roof cross section    
  • Norman Foster original sketch    
  • Roof geometry extracted     
  • Model showing overlapping of exhibits    
  • Detail section of roof and buttresses    

Vast curving concrete canopy, encasing a display of USAF warplanes, hung from the structure, at Duxford airfield

Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire was a Battle of Britain fighter station and is now maintained by the Imperial War Museum.

The brief for the Air Museum sought to create a building that would commemorate the role of the American Air Force in World War II and the thousands of airmen who lost their lives. It was also to provide the optimum enclosure, in terms of humidity levels and UV protection, for the conservation of the B-52 and twenty other aircraft dating from World War I to the Gulf War.

The dimensions of the B-52 (a 61m wingspan and 16m-high tail fin) established the buildings height and width, and provided the principle axis through which the Museum is entered.

Enveloped by a single vaulted enclosure, the buildings drama comes from the arc of this roof - engineered to support suspended aircraft - and the sweep of the glazed southern wall overlooking the runway. In addition to this fully glazed elevation, a continuous strip of glass around the base of the vault washes the interior in daylight. The result is a light and open space, despite the fact that the structure is partly sunk into the ground.


  • Begun: Sep 1995
  • Completed: Jul 1997
  • Floor area: 6,500m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £11M
  • Funding: Private and Lottery Funding
  • Address: Duxford Airfield, Duxford, CB22 4QR, United Kingdom

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