Client: The Silverstone Interactive Museum
Designers: Mather & Co.
Exhibition Fit-out: Elmwood Projects Ltd.
When we heard of a tendering opportunity that may be around the corner where the project scope was to convert an existing hangar into a complete visitor attraction, it is safe to say it certainly had our interest. Upon discovering this was a WWII RAF hangar, located at the world famous Silverstone racing track, with the museum’s objective to champion its entire history, it was ‘lights out and away we go’!
The project aimed to become a state-of-the-art hub for motor sport fans and families to explore racing at Silverstone, whilst preserving the historic building and protecting the British Racing Drivers’ Club’s archive for the future. A clear ambition, but a complex delivery. Challenge accepted.
We are proud to boast a diverse portfolio in the Museum and Heritage sector and in terms of relevant project experience, we knew we had successfully completed the award winning Brooklands Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed (Best Permanent Exhibition, M+H Awards 2018) and that delivering our exhibition fit-out works into a refurbished hangar was something we could confidently and gladly reproduce.
The complexities of the project delivery being in a hangar is not too dissimilar to the more orthodox environments we work in, which for us could be a museum gallery, distillery, historic building or scheduled monument. We would be acting as both principal contractor (CDM) and main exhibition fit-out contractor, manufacturing and installing all setwork elements of the project in-house, whilst subcontracting other specialist packages; showcases Armour Systems, graphics Creative Place, electrical M4, audio visual hardware Sysco, audio visual software Ay-Pe and interactives, scenics and replicas Aivaf to our partners in our experienced, vetted and verified supply chain.
Winning the contract was euphoric. This was the biggest project of the year in our industry and the magnitude of expectation of delivering such a prestigious and transformative project certainly was not lost on us. So we got to work, appointed our supply chain partners and commenced our initial workshops.
Mather & Co. were the exhibition designers for The Silverstone Interactive Museum which meant we were able to continue our successful working relationship with them, having previously worked alongside them on Norton Priory, National Horse Racing Museum, Quarrybank and The Royal Mint.
Our relationship with the exhibition designers on any project is crucial. We basically take the conceptual drawings that Mather & Co. produce and turn them into construction drawings, ready for manufacture. That means our own in-house technical design interpretation team will be producing drawings for Mather & Co. and the client team at The Silverstone Interactive Museum to sign off. Central to this process is our design interface manager who manages the flow of information from design to installation and proactively ensures designs are accurately planned, coordinated and released for production complying with company and project standards, specifications and to the agreed programme. In most projects, this early stage poses the biggest risk to programme and having a design interface manager helps to mitigate issues and streamline the process to ensure the programme is managed and maintained. A project this size demanded multiple workshops with representatives from all contributing parties present. A very thorough and communicative process, but one that has resulted in the realisation of fantastic Mather & Co. design, through all of the individual specialist packages, seamlessly integrating together.
We usually take up the role of principal contractor once the base build contractor has completed the building refurbishment works, although there are times when we are working on site at the same time as them. It is also not uncommon for base build works to overrun, so we ensure we can be flexible about a transitional period when this happens and find ways to re-programme our works to include working alongside them. At Brooklands, we were able to show flexibility and allow the base build back into the hangar for some remedial works to the floor. With The Silverstone Interactive Museum, the base build was overrunning to a more significant extent, so we programmed and coordinated our packages accordingly, to allow for base build presence throughout.
An unforeseen and unfortunate event happened during the project, where the base build contractor was put into administration. This posed an enormous and potentially catastrophic risk to the project, given that there were works yet to be completed and effectively overnight the main contractor on the project was simply gone.
Thanks to funding of more than £20,000,000 from the likes of the National Lottery Heritage Fund invested in the project, which had been ongoing for over seven years, The Silverstone Interactive Museum, Silverstone Heritage Ltd, British Racing Drivers’ Club and all stakeholders were naturally keen, to put it mildly, to find a solution to remedy this untimely setback.
The dreaded ‘Ds’ – downtime and delays. In truth, we had mostly completed our exhibition fit-out works by the time this happened and we were just waiting on some critical path items from the base build being finished so that our follow on trades could come in to complete their works. However, our whole project was now not hanging in the balance and there was the clear need for an alternative provider to compete the base build works. Thankfully our team do have knowledge and experience in this area, although this is by no means our core offering, and we were able to plan and deliver the remainder of the works for the client, resulting in only a week’s downtime from the collapse of the main contractor to works recommencing. Our intimate knowledge of the project undoubtedly helped expedite matters and we were glad we were able to help get the project over the line.
“Following the completion of our two most recent projects – the Mott Macdonald offices and The Bridge Argyle Street – we are once again delighted at the professionalism and conduct on both these difficult contracts.”
CMM Architects, Mott Macdonald & The Bridge