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American Air Museum at Duxford granted listed status

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It is the largest museum of its kind in Europe. Now the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford has been granted Grade II-listed status by English Heritage.

The impressive building, which was designed by award-winning architect Norman Foster, was purpose-built at the Imperial War Museum’s site at Duxford airfield between 1995 to 1997 to exhibit their collection of American military aircraft, regarded as the most impressive outside the United States.

 The American Air Museum at Duxford. Designed by Norman Foster, it received critical acclaim for its modern take on traditional aircraft hangars. Image: Historic England.
The American Air Museum at Duxford. Designed by Norman Foster, it received critical acclaim for its modern take on traditional aircraft hangars. Image: Historic England.

During the Second World War, Duxford was both an RAF and a United States Army Air Force station, playing an important role in the Battle of Britain. Many of its original structures remain intact and are themselves listed.

The modern museum enjoyed critical acclaim when it first opened in 1998. Spanning 90m, its curved, concrete roof was inspired by the sleek, skin-like structure of military aircraft, and was designed in part to house a B-52 bomber, the largest aircraft in the collection.

The minimum requirement for a building to obtain listed status used to be that it should be at least 30 years old, but this rule has increasingly been ignored in recent years.

Renato Niemis’s memorial sculpture Counting the Cost, part of the museum, was also recognised. It is made up of 52 large glass panels engraved with silhouettes of the 7,031 American aircraft lost on operations during World War II.

Commenting on the announcement, John Brown, Executive Director of Commerce and Operations at IWM, said: ‘We are delighted that the innovative design and architectural significance of the American Air Museum has been recognised through a Grade II listing.’

‘The American Air Museum tells a hugely important story in not only the history of IWM Duxford’, Brown added, ‘but of the Allied forces during the Second World War, highlighting the contribution that thousands of American servicemen and -women made to the conflict.’

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the museum may currently be closed. Visit the IWM website for more information.

This is an article from the February/March 2021 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.


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