Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum North

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We’ve not been over to Salford Quays for a while, but on Sunday we were showing our young Japanese friend, who we met when visiting the Bauhaus in Dessau last year, around Manchester. She’s an architecture student so a trip to Salford Quays to see the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum was a must.

The Imperial War Museum stands on the Trafford side of the quays. It’s a striking aluminium clad structure designed by Daniel Libeskind standing by the waterside.

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Liebskind is renowned for his dramatic metal clad buildings including the Jewish Museum in Berlin, his first major international success, which we’d visited last year. He also designed the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin which I made a point of going to see during a recent visit to the city.

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The architect’s website describes the concept of the building

The design concept is a globe shattered into fragments and then reassembled. The interlocking of three of these fragments—representing earth, air, and water—comprise the building’s form. The Earth Shard forms the museum space, signifying the open, earthly realm of conflict and war; the Air Shard serves as a dramatic entry into the museum, with its projected images, observatories and education spaces; and the Water Shard forms the platform for viewing the canal, complete with a restaurant, cafe, deck and performance space.

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Inside, the architect has deliberately employed the curves of the building, sharp angles and sloping floors to disorient visitors to simulate the effects of war and conflict.The design of the lighting, long angled luminaries, which are very similar to the arrangement of the windows and lighting in the Berlin Jewish Museum, contribute to this.

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The air shard – the tower – is an aluminium clad skeleton, which is empty other than a viewing platform about two thirds up that is accessed via a lift or stairs. We didn’t go up this time for the views over the Quays. It’s a little scary as the floor of the pattern is metal gridding which you can see through – right down to the ground many metres below.

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