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Completed in 2001, the Imperial War Museum North (IWMN) is located in Manchester, England and tells the story of how war has affected the lives of British and Commonwealth citizens since 1914. Known for the awe inspiring piece of architecture known as the Jewish Museum in Berlin, this museum was also designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind and holds its own share of acknowledgements having been named one of the top 10 buildings of the last century (2008) and one of the top 3 Large Visitor Attractions in England (2007).

Courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind

The design concept is that of a globe which has been shattered into fragments and then reassembled. The three fragments interlock and join at different angles, each representing a different element, earth, air, and water. These three shards represent conflicts that have been fought by men and women by land, sky, and sea. The Earth shard forms the museum space, signifying the open, earthly realm of conflict and war. The Air shard serves as a dramatic entry with projected images, observatories and education spaces showing a more intangible and emotional side to war. Finally, the Water shard forms the platform for viewing the Canal, with a restaurant, café, deck and performance space.

Courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind

Although the exhibits and central space of the building are located in the Earth shard, that plane is relatively flat, remaining close to the surface, like its intended reference should suggest, but allows the Air shard to become the more dominant feature from an exterior perspective. The Air shard is 55m high, providing views of the Manchester skyline, while also leaving the viewers exposed to the elements. The angular and shard like nature of the exterior is only emphasized on the interior by the elaborate steel truss and bracing as well as the lights and openings. The experience of walking through this building really echoes the subject matter, as the architect refuses to overly romanticize war and conflict, leaving the majority of the structure raw and unadorned, which makes the true reasons and intention of the museum to come through.

Courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind

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