About the Project

300 precast concrete components erected within exhibition hall

The Imperial War Museum in London reopened in time for the World War 1 centenary commemorations following a major £40 million refurbishment helped by PCE.

Images 1, 3 and 4 © IWM

Round-the-clock working in 24 hour shifts by PCE’s construction team during the project contributed to a totally new look for the interior of the museum with the addition of new precast concrete galleries designed to resemble the wings of aircraft.

PCE carried out a logistically complex operation to erect almost 300 precast concrete components within the existing structure of the main hall.

50mm clearances

The existing floor of the exhibition hall was removed to create added height within the building, allowing for the concrete panels weighing up to five tonnes to be manoeuvred from the exterior by forklift before being lifted into place using a 25 tonne mobile crane, operating with clearances down to just 50mm from the existing glass atrium.

All units had to be underslung and fed around steel.

PCE’s team worked from a gantry using chains and blocks to undersling the units and attach each one to a steel framework using mechanical fixings.

The design uses a series of cheek panels and “fin” units to echo the appearance of aircraft wings, forming new exhibition “clusters” over four floors housing 400 exhibits and providing a fitting backdrop to the main display of 20th century fighter aircraft, “doodle bugs” and rockets.

Further information

Precast hybrid structures for Education / Schools »

Foster + Partners case study »

BBC video – Look at Imperial War Museum’s makeover »

Project Info


  • Erection of almost 300 precast units weighing up to 5 tonnes each


  • Utilising a mobile crane set within the existing structure with the roof still in place
  • As little as 200mm clearance in places


  • Highest possible architectural quality concrete required
  • Extensive planning required for sequencing temporary works
  • Tight tolerances with zero damage necessity


  • 3 crews were deployed
  • Crew 1 and 2 fixing and crew 3 transporting the units
  • Erection crews also split shifts to maximise the erection outputs