BFI Master Film Store
by Edward Cullinan

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London studio Edward Cullinan Architects have completed a concrete and steel bunker to store the British Film Institute's entire film collection.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

Located in Warwickshire, England, the BFI Master Film Store can archive up to 460,000 film canisters inside vaults with sub-zero temperatures and specified humidity levels.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

These 36 vaults are externally clad in precast concrete panels to maintain a stable thermal mass.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

At the front of the building is an entrance block wrapped in corrugated stainless steel panels, which features a steeply pitched sedum roof.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

This block provides workshops, a meeting room and staff facilities, as well as airtight lobbies leading to the storage vaults.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

We have recently published a number of bunker-like buildings on Dezeen - see all the stories here.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

Photography is by Edmund Sumner.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

Here are some more details about the project from Edward Cullinan Architects:


This autumn, the British Film Institute (BFI) has reached a major milestone in its long history of preserving the nation’s film heritage. The pioneering new building is ready to house the BFI’s entire master collection of acetate and nitrate film in closely controlled environmental conditions ideal for the long term protection of this priceless and vulnerable material.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

The Project has been realised through the Screen Heritage UK (SHUK) programme, a nationwide initiative funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. One of its key objectives is to prevent the deterioration and loss of the nation’s films so that they can be made accessible now and in the future. The BFI cares for the most significant film collection in the world. It represents the history of the moving image in Britain from pre-cinema through to the present day. The collection has been stored over two sites; the new building consolidates the collection into an existing site in Warwickshire.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

The building is designed by Edward Cullinan Architects who led a detailed feasibility study which concluded that the BFI’s existing archive buildings could not be suitably upgraded, and that a new ‘sub-zero’ storage facility large enough to house all master acetate and nitrate material should be constructed at the earliest opportunity.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

The final technical solution is the result of intense research and collaboration between the architect, engineers, film experts and the BFI to define the best method for storing such a large collection of film sustainably for the next 50 years and beyond.

At just under 3000m², the new vaults will store up to 460,000 canisters of film in conditions of -5°C at 35% relative humidity, while the construction enables the building to sustain these conditions in an energy efficient way.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

Pre-cast concrete panels provide the thermal mass required to limit temperature fluctuations. Although the building form is quite simple, consisting of 30 identical cellular vaults for nitrate and 6 vaults for acetate film, the specification requires extremely low air leakage rate and must withstand intense heat in the unlikely event of a nitrate film fire. Rigorous analysis, detailing, quality control and testing has been carried out to ensure the building will provide the sub–zero temperature, low humidity and fire prevention that the film requires for its preservation.

The building is the first of its kind to store large quantities of film in such cold and dry conditions; it will also achieve a BREEAM Rating of ‘Excellent’ for its sustainable features.

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

Click to enlarge image

Project Data

Design Team Appointed: July 2009
Construction period commenced: October 2010
Construction Cost: £9million
Cost per m2: £3,000
Planning approved: June 2010
Building occupied: September 2011
Practical Completion Date: December 2011

BFI Master FIlm Store by Edward Cullinan Architects

Click to enlarge image

Credits

Client: BFI
Architect: Edward Cullinan Architects
Structural Engineer: Curtins Consulting
Services Engineer: Couch Perry & Wilkes
Project Manager: Buro Four
Quantity surveyor: W H Stephens
CDM Coordinator: Arcadis
Main contractor: Gilbert Ash NI

  • nicey

    it's rare to see something as completely convincing as this. a flipping masterpiece.

  • hdemauthor

    Edward Cullinan is the master. What a breathtaking combination of clarity, will and apparent effortlessness.