Imperial War Museum, London

A visually arresting triangular-panelled canopy, forming the centrepiece for the surrounding galleries has been designed, supplied and installed by SAS International at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Key features




Imperial War Museum


Foster + Partners

Main contractor

Lend Lease


SAS Project Management

Completion year


System type

Service Bulkheads, Bespoke Metal Ceilings

Area M2



United Kingdom

Product Groups

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War, a brand new exhibition space has opened at the Imperial War Museum in London. A £40m renovation has seen the Southwark museum transformed into an interactive tribute. It tells the overall narrative at the time through the eyes of the people living in the then British Empire.

The project was awarded the AIS-FDPC Silver Award in the Judges Award category this year.


Inspired by the Union Jack, the atrium suspends a visually arresting triangular-panelled canopy, forming the centrepiece for the surrounding galleries. The brief was to create a three dimensional, acoustically absorptive soffit feature using a naturally reflective material. Foster + Partners contacted SAS International’s project management division in the early stages of design as they had the capability to design, manufacture and install to the project demands. The overall solution was engineered to aesthetic aspirations and original design intent, while meeting the budgetary requirements of the client.

Material Choice

Mill finish aluminium was selected as it provided the level of reflectivity to achieve the required aesthetic. Although anodising the extremely large aluminium triangular panels was cost prohibitive, Foster + Partners preferred the natural appearance of mill finish aluminium. To protect this delicate finish and prevent future oxidisation, SAS selected a polyester powder coat in clear gloss lacquer.  This maintained the desired aesthetic of the original base material while remaining on budget.

Acoustic Control

Poor acoustics within such a space can reduce a guest’s enjoyment of the exhibits. To effectively control unwanted and drifting noise, each perforated panel has an integrated acoustic backing.

Installation Considerations

The non-coplanar panels are suspended from the ceiling in a three dimensional layout with concealed fixings. A 3D model was created and combined with the structural steelwork model to provide fully coordinated details and dimensional data for 3D setting out on site.

Various iconic objects are suspended from the steel frame behind the panels to correspond with the gallery displays on each of the four levels of the atrium. The fixing lugs were carefully coordinated, with factory punched openings allowing the exhibit’s suspension cables to pass neatly and discreetly through the soffit line.


Lighting is suspended from the steel frame behind and drops through the panels. No direct light hits the panels. The effect is a neutral but architecturally interesting backdrop that emphasises the exhibits below.

Systems used