The museum that was bowed - but not broken - by the lottery

Despite financial constraints, the Imperial War Museum North project is under way.

It was with unmistakable irony that a double rainbow materialised in the leaden Manchester skies when Daniel Libeskind's Imperial War Museum North was topped out on the banks of the city's ship canal two weeks ago.

It was with unmistakable irony that a double rainbow materialised in the leaden Manchester skies when Daniel Libeskind's Imperial War Museum North was topped out on the banks of the city's ship canal two weeks ago.

A £20m pot of gold from the heritage lottery fund was to have helped fund the dramatically explosive contours of this new museum at Salford. But although Libeskind - who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the so-called Spiral extension to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London - worked in anticipation of it, not a penny was forthcoming.

When the Imperial War Museum bid was initially rejected in December 1997, its supporters were told that heritage lottery funds had established enough major capital projects. Smaller, revenue-funded projects were flavour of the month.

The museum has since relied on some judicious cloth- cutting andbloody-mindedness to realise its regional ambitions. The withdrawal of the promised £20m left it with just £28m to play with, courtesy of Trafford council, the European regional development fund, English Partnerships and Peel Holdings. And the scale of the building had to be trimmed by 10 per cent.

Libeskind "wasn't precious about scaling down the project," said Vivienne Bennett, IWM North project director. "But he did say that beyond a certain point it could not be cut any more, in which case a new creation would be necessary."

Since the dynamism of the original creation had already captured the imagination of financial backers, that prospect was utterly unthinkable for IWM. Instead, a cherished auditorium went, the exhibitions budget was slashed and Libeskind's team settled for cheaper materials - metal, instead of concrete, now clads each of the three shards which form the building and which are based on the structure of a sphere shattered into fragments, to reflect conflict in earth, air and water.

The vertical air-shard forming the entrance comprises a lattice of steel 55m high with a 29m observatory platform offering views across Manchester. An earth-shard will house the large volume of exhibits, its floor is domed to give the visitors the impression that they "are standing on top of the world," says Libeskind. A concave water-shard accommodates restaurants and overlooks the canal.

"The reduced budget has, in some ways, helped," said Martin Ostermann, one of Libeskind's project architects. "The shards are more dominant and dramatic if you make them metal." The metallic elements also settle the museum in with its nominal twin - the shimmering, aluminium-clad £96.4m Lottery-funded Lowry, which sits across the canal.

Libeskind said the building "will be there in a strong and stark form without any compromise to the original concept. I hope it will contribute to the debate about the impact of conflict, particularly the impact of 20th century conflicts".

But the IWM is, quite understandably, smarting. Lottery money has been thrown at a catalogue of ill-fated Lottery-funded museums, including the National Centre for Popular Music at Sheffield. A Lottery handout of £3.5m has also brought 100 pieces of public art to the North-east - some of which have done nothing more than baffle the locals. A northern outpost for the IWM seems at least as worthy a recipient.

With just over half the anticipatedbudget, the IWM will make imaginative use of the resources available, relying on archive material currently in storage at the London's IWM; 120 million ft of cine film, for instance, will be projected onto Libeskind's 12m high walls. "We have nothing to thank the lottery fund for, but they have indirectly made us make use of every last square inch of the building," said Ms Bennett.

A £3m fund-raising campaign, chaired by BBC war correspondent Kate Adie, is under way for the last of the project's costs - and such is the optimism that a second phase of development plans is on the table, including the auditorium which had to be ditched nearly two years ago. Libeskind has designed the infrastructure with the second phase in mind, said Ms Bennett. "It would give us great pleasure to fulfil those original ambitions."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore