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1040 Abroad

American Air Museum and Memorial in Britain Given Grade II Listing

As well as the museum at IWM Duxford, a memorial called 'Counting the Cost', dedicated to the memory of American airmen lost in combat, has also been listed

Published on December 8, 2020

Counting the Cost Counting the Cost Memorial, Close Up. Image Cropped. Photo: Paul Hudson

The American Air Museum at IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire, along with a memorial paying tribute to US airmen lost in combat, have been given Grade II listing, protecting it as it is deemed a "particularly important building of more than special interest".

Although the Air Museum is less than 30 years old, having been built between 1995 and 1997 to house the Imperial War Museum's collection of American aicraft, the architecture of the museum was enough to earn it the RBA Stirling Prize in 1998. Explaining the building's architectural importance, Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Heritage England, said that "The American Air Museum at Duxford is an outstanding building, with a geometric construction that makes it the most complicated of all [Lord Norman] Foster’s work. Its smooth, sweeping form is expertly designed to complement IWM’s amazing aircraft collection. It is important to recognise and protect the work of architects like Foster who have helped to shape much of England’s modern landscape and this site is special for the stories it tells about 20th century air combat."

As well as the museum, a memorial dedicated to American service personnel has also been given grade two listed status. 'Counting the Cost' is made up of 52 glass panels, engraved with silhouettes of over 7,000 American aircraft that were lost during operations. The memorial is a tribute to the 30,000 American airmen who lost their lives serving from UK bases during the Second World War.

Nigel Huddleston, Heritage Minister, said that "This listing demonstrates that the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford is both a stunning example of modern architecture and, alongside the 'Counting the Cost' war memorial sculpture, an important memorial to those serving in the Second World War. I'm pleased that we are able to recognise the museum's architectural and historical significance and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by protecting this site for future generations."

Speaking on behalf of IWM, John Brown, Executive Director of Commerce and Operations, said that "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, but of the allied forces during the Second World War, highlighting the contribution that thousands of American service men and women made to the conflict. We needed the building that houses those fascinating stories to be a fitting testament to their service, and that was definitely achieved."

Discussing the Grade II status announcement, the architect, Lord Norman Foster, explained the reason behind the museum's shape: "The curved-torus roof form is generated in part by the largest aircraft in the collection, the mighty B-52 bomber. Spanning 90 metres, the roof shell is made of two layers of concrete that can support a point load of up to twelve tonnes, with the central space looking onto the active runway. The collection and the architecture together, are a celebration of flight." Foster added that "It is wonderful news and we are all delighted that the importance of this building has been recognised by this listing. Between 1943 and 1945, Duxford was an American airbase for significant numbers of American airman who lost their lives in the War. In that spirit, the building is both a museum and a memorial – the entrance is respectful, as if entering a tomb, which opens up to an airy, hanger-like space."

For more details on the American Air Museum and the 'Counting the Cost' Memorial, go to www.americanairmuseum.com.


Inside the American Air Museum American Aircraft inside the American Air Museum. Photo: Adam Jones


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