The museum positions itself symbolically and functionally as open and fluid, engaging its context and content to ensure it is profoundly interlinked both with Glasgow’s history and its future.
The historic development of the Clyde and the city of Glasgow is a unique legacy. Located where the Kelvin joins the Clyde, the museum’s design flows from the city to the river, symbolizing a dynamic relationship where the museum is the voice of both, connecting the city to the river while transitioning from one to the other.
The museum houses more than 3.000 exhibits in over 150 interactive displays telling the stories of the people behind the term “Clyde Built”, a term that circumscribed the world and stood for unbeatable quality.
The Tall Ship Glenlee is moored in front of the museum’s south facade, for the very first time bringing her together with the city’s unrivaled ship model collection. The Glenlee is one of only five “Clyde Built” sailing vessels afloat in the world today and the only one in the UK.
The building, open at opposite ends, has a tunnel-like configuration between the city and the Clyde. However, within this connection between the city and river the building diverts to create a journey away from its external context and into the world of the exhibits.
Visitors build up a gradual sense of the external context as they move through the museum from exhibit to exhibit. The design is a sectional extrusion, open at opposing ends along a diverted linear path. This cross-sectional outline could be seen as a cityscape or a gestural nod to the form of waves on water.
The outer waves, or “pleats”, are enclosed to accommodate support services and the “black box” exhibits. This leaves the main central space column-free and open, offering maximum flexibility to exhibit the museum’s world-class collection.
The main contractors, BAM, described the construction of the massive 2.500-ton steel roof without any internal supporting columns as the most challenging engineering feat in the UK to date.
The form of the roof structure is roughly Z-shaped in plan, with structural mullions at each end that not only support the roof but also allow the glazed end facades to be supported without the need for secondary members. In section the roof is a series of continuous ridges and valleys that constantly vary in height and width from one gable to the other; no two lines of rafters are geometrically identical.
The history of Glasgow is profoundly interlinked with the history of the Clyde, and together they have informed the museum’s design. I wanted the building to reflect the importance of its location and allow for the innovative and inspirational display of its outstanding collection.
The fluid design continues Glasgow’s rich engineering traditions: a true demonstration and celebration of the skills and passion of local engineers and contractors who helped to bring this building to life.
— Zaha Hadid