Duxford Paper Store

Imperial War Museums

Project Outline

A new-build storage facility for the paper collections of Imperial War Museums (IWM) re-thinks the strategy for collections care, taking Architype’s approach for passive preservation to the next level.

IWM’s responsibility to preserve over 100 years’ worth of collections for future generations in the best possible environmental conditions and in line with the highest standards of best practice was the catalyst for commissioning the new building. The new facility will bring together over 14,000 linear meters of IWM’s collections into one central repository on the historical conservation area at IWM Duxford. The new store will hold one of the world’s most important collections of artworks, photographs, letters and diaries covering the history of warfare during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The new facility is designed to provide for up to 30 years’ expansion of IWM’s unique collections, which tell the human stories of lives engulfed in war and show how conflict has shaped the world in which we all live. The innovative new building will support IWM’s mission to preserve these stories and help future generations to better understand the causes, course and consequences of war.

On Site / May. ‘18
Completion / Jan. ’19
Gross Internal Floor Area
1,452 sqm
Construction Type
Concrete blockwork, insulated timber Corten Cladding
Total / £2,863,000

Architype are remarkable because of their proactive, flexible approach to developing low-cost, high quality solutions. Their enthusiasm to partner with our team has resulted in innovative and sustainable solutions that respect our historic site.

Gael Dundas, Assistant director, collections Management, Imperial War Museums

Designing in the historic context

The single storey singular box form is designed to complement the existing historic buildings on the site at IWM Duxford. Though simple in form, the oxidised steel façade offers thoughtful detail, consisting of ground-to-roof panels that signify each year of archived collections from 1914 onwards. Perforations in panels denote the quantity of collected documentation, with noteworthy years around wartimes being heavily perforated in accordance with the volume collected. The plain and uninterrupted patina of the oxidised steel complements the colour and texture of the historic brickwork on the site.

Guaranteeing the environmental conditions of the stores

To ensure the long-term preservation of the collections it is critical that the environmental conditions of the building remained very stable and well within the optimal tolerances for temperature and humidity. Traditionally this has been achieved through a finely tuned balance of complex building services. A Passivhaus strategy offered IWM an opportunity to use a low-energy method that guaranteed stable environmental conditions for significantly lower running costs.

The repository is the second completed Passivhaus archive for architects Architype, benefitting from lessons learned to produce a highly refined and efficient building. As such the new archive building boasts (at the time of writing) the world record for an airtightness result of 0.03ach; as well as incorporating pioneering strategic differences from common structural approaches and design strategies.

RIBA National Award winner 2021

RIBA East Sustainability Award 2021

RIBA East Award winner 2021

Architype Team

Project Partners

Project Managers
Fraser Randall
Structural Engineer
M&E Consultant
E3 and Elemental Solutions
Quantity Surveyor
Avison Young
Selected subcontractors and suppliers
Richard Ash IWM


  • Best result for airtightness in the world
  • RIBA National Award winner 2021
  • RIBA East Sustainability Award 2021
  • Dezeen Cultural Building of the Year 2020 - longlist
  • Architizer - Architecture + Engineering - finalist
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