AIM member, The Brunel Museum, have continued the legacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s work in London by making The Grand Entrance Hall (or ‘sinking’) shaft of the historic Thames Tunnel publically accessible. Thanks to a National Heritage Landmarks Partnership Scheme grant from Biffa Award and AIM (as well as generous donations from London Borough of Southwark and operational support from Transport for London), a freestanding, cantilevered staircase has been completed, designed by architects Tate Harmer. The project is part of the Brunel Museum’s plans to widen public awareness of the built legacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and of our industrial heritage.
The Brunel Museum celebrates three generations of extraordinary engineers who helped to shape London. The shaft is approximately 50ft in diameter and 50ft deep – with dramatic smoke-blackened brick walls from steam trains, providing a raw but atmospheric backdrop. Robert Hulse, Director of the Brunel Museum said: “Brunel was a daring engineer and organised the world’s first underwater concert right here in Rotherhithe. Museums should be places to be inspired and places for celebration and performance. Happy Birthday Brunel! 210 years old this week”.
The shaft is now a dramatic and unique venue (Photo credit: ©Jack Hobhouse)
The architects have also created a new doorway into the shaft allowing the former entrance shaft to the historic Thames Tunnel to become a newly accessible underground space and a key exhibit for the museum, hosting events and performances and breathing new life into this important fragment of Brunel’s first project. Brunel’s father, Marc, began the tunnel with his teenage son, Isambard, who later became resident engineer. It is the only project that father and son worked on together – and Isambard’s first. The Thames Tunnel opened in 1843 and is the first underwater tunnel in the world and the birthplace of the modern metro system.
Other AIM members that have Biffa Award funded project launches this year include: Chatham Historic Dockyard, Hampshire Preservation Trust (Burlesdon Brickworks), ss Great Britain, Canal & River Trust (National Waterways Museum), Woodhorn Museum, United Kingdom Historic Buildings Preservation Trust (Middleport Pottery), Underfall Boatyard and the British Postal Museum and Archive.
A set of promotional guidelines for all AIM Biffa Award funded projects is available for download using the link below. If you require any help or support promoting your AIM Biffa Award, please email email@example.com