The Brunel Museum, situated above Brunel’s famous under-river tunnel has announced plans for a major expansion and revamp of the buildings.
Currently split between two buildings, the old Engine House and the original Brunel Sinking Shaft, a new entrance pavilion, containing a café and shop will connect the two buildings via a covered courtyard.
The changes will shift the focus of the entrance from the north side to the south, which will make for a more obvious route around the site as the entrance to the Sinking Shaft is on the south side and rather hidden from the current entrance.
The design specialists Tate Harmer and conservation architects Purcell have been appointed to lead the planning phase, backed by £200,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Tate Harmer had previous experience on the site, as they worked on adding the new staircase inside the Sinking Shaft in 2016, replacing the fun if totally impractical crawl through a tunnel and down a scaffold. The Shaft, which sits right above the London Overground tunnels is, or in current times, was used to host events and concerts.
The latest stage in a long plan to upgrade the museum will see most of the visitor functions moved out of the historic Engine House into a new pavilion building so that the Engine House can be refurbished and the exhibition space enlarged.
Accessibility will also be improved, the current layout has a lot of stairs to navigate.
Due to complete in 2023/4, the project will also show for the first time the recently-acquired collection of Marc Brunel’s original Thames Tunnel watercolour designs.
Once the plans are completed, the museum will apply for the remaining £1.4 million to complete the works early next year.
The museum was opened in 1975, currently attracts around 35,000 visitors a year, and is entirely self-funded.