Biggin Hill Memorial Museum

Bromley, 2019
Architect: Robin Lee Architecture
Area: 500m2
New Build, Museum

A new museum tells the story of Britain’s most famous fighter station during the Battle of Britain.

This 'A'-rated building features an underground thermal labyrinth to passively heat or cool the exhibition space, thereby reducing energy use.

The new single-storey brick and timber structure adjacent to St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance exhibits a collection and audio visual display telling the personal stories of those who served at the airfield.  The visitor experience includes the refurbished Chapel, new gift shop and a cafe.

We devised the environmental concept for this simple building to rely on low-energy, fan-assisted natural ventilation and therefore avoid the complexity and running costs of a conventional air conditioning system. 

Work began on site in 2017 to excavate the foundations, which accommodate a shallow ventilation labyrinth to naturally cool or warm the exhibition space. Ventilation air moves slowly through the long and convoluted underground passageway designed to have a high thermal capacity and large surface area. The result is a natural tempering of the air before it enters the exhibition through grilles in the floor. In summer the warm outside air is cooled down; in winter the cold air is warmed up. Air leaves the room through secure bronze vent panels integrated with the picture windows.

The underground thermal labyrinth during construction

The underground thermal labyrinth during construction

The underground thermal labyrinth during construction

We carefully integrated the exhibition lighting into the timber grid ceiling structure using a network of minimal jack-plug points that enables a range of spotlight configurations without any visible electrical cableways.