The Memorial Spire, International Bomber Command Centre, Lincoln

The Memorial Spire

Architect
Place Architecture

Structural Engineer
s h e d

Steelwork Contractor
S H Structures Ltd

Main Contractor
Lindum Group Ltd

Client
The Lincolnshire Bomber Command Memorial Trust

The International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) is being created to provide a world- class facility to serve as a point for recognition, remembrance and reconciliation for Bomber Command. This is an ongoing project being driven by The Lincolnshire Bomber Command Memorial Trust, in partnership with the University of Lincoln, with the aim of opening the Centre in 2017.

Lincoln has been chosen as the site for the IBBC as Lincolnshire earned the title of Bomber County – it was the home of 27 operational bases which in itself was a third of the UK’s Bomber Command bases.
At the heart of the IBBC is the Memorial Spire which sits majestically above the City of Lincoln and acts as a beacon marking the courage and bravery of those who served in World War II.

The architectural references are taken from the airframe and wings of an Avro Lancaster Bomber. The structure represents two wing fragments tapering towards the sky, separated by perforated plates similar to those used in the aircraft’s frame construction. Further references can be found in the Spire’s dimensions, standing 31.9m high this represents the same span of a Lancaster’s wing and, at 5m wide at its base, is the same width of the aircraft’s wing.

The Spire’s orientation was carefully considered and it is placed so that visitors who walk through it will be rewarded with a framed view of Lincoln Cathedral. The Cathedral Spire was very familiar to the aircrew as it was a welcoming landmark to those who returned from their many sorties during World War II.

The facts and figures relating to the role of those young men who flew from airfields around Lincolnshire and other parts of the UK are thought provoking: 364,514 sorties flown, 3,491 aircraft lost and 25,611 aircrew losing their lives, with the average being 22 years old. To recognise the sacrifice of the aircrew the Spire is surrounded by a series of Memorial Walls. The weathering steel panels are laser cut with the names of those who lost their lives.

Steel was the obvious choice for the Spire and the weathering steel plate fulfilled all the structural and aesthetic requirements of the project. The selection of weathering steel gives the Spire a cold austere feel which, whilst not requiring applied surface treatments, will be maintenance-free throughout its lifespan.

The first part of the manufacturing process was to cut the individual plates. Using the information generated by the computer model the plates were carefully nested to minimise the overall waste of material. The external profiled plates had to be curved to create the wing-like form. This was achieved by press-braking the individual plates to the desired shape using files extracted from the 3D model.
The formed plates were built up in purpose-made jigs prior to being welded together to form the complete spire sections that would go to site as two loads. Due to the significant amount of welding, a great deal of care had to be put into the developing of the weld procedure to ensure there was no distortion in the plates, particularly along their leading edges where any defects would be most noticeable on the finished spire.

With fabrication complete the two sections of the spire were shot blasted – a process that would ensure any fabrication marks were removed and allow the structure to develop an even patina as the weathering steel gradually turned its familiar rusty colour.

On 2 October 2015 in front of an audience of 2,600 guests, including 312 Bomber Command veterans thought to be the largest gathering since 1945, the IBBC Memorial Spire was officially unveiled.

We all go about our working lives and spend time with our families and friends and it is easy to forget that the freedom we have today is thanks to those who gave so much during World War II. To be reminded about the sacrifices made by so many is a humbling experience. The Spire is a fitting memorial and, when further funding is in place, the construction of the Chadwick Centre will begin, which will house the Bomber Command archive and tell its story to future generations.

Judges’ Comment

This excellent project is a fitting testament to the memory of the World War II bomber crews that flew from Lincolnshire and other parts of the UK. The architectural arrangement of the various elements has been carefully considered, taking cues from the local context. The choice of weathering steel is most successful.

The detail design and particularly the execution of the monument are outstanding.