THOUSANDS of visitors have now visited the £5.4 million extension to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, which now houses an original Spitfire aircraft thanks to specialist project management from national property, construction, and infrastructure consultancy Pick Everard.

The project comprised the design and construction of a new 3,800 square foot, double height exhibition space with mezzanine and the alteration and refurbishment of the existing café space within the art gallery and museum, alongside extensive external landscaping.

Utilising a steel frame and rainscreen cladding, the new exhibition space has been designed with specialist structural glazing to allow the main attraction, the city’s iconic RW388 Spitfire Aircraft, to be exhibited. The area also houses a flight simulator, model Hurricane aircraft and other exhibitions.

Seeking an expedited project process to ensure scheduled delivery, Pick Everard – operating under Perfect Circle’s unique collaboration – was appointed as Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s multi-disciplinary construction consultant through SCAPE’s Built Environment Consultancy Services (BECS) framework.

Matt Jones, associate project manager at Pick Everard, said: “Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s aspiration for a statement project that provides meeting and social space for the general public captured our imagination and we worked collaboratively with the wider project team to develop and deliver a scheme that achieves this. In the process we overcame several challenges presented by the sloping brownfield site, in addition to the adapted structure and services of the existing building that the new exhibition space needed to be adjoined to.

“Since this scheme created an extension to an existing museum, the project demanded early engagement and smart collaboration with a variety of stakeholders. This included the city council’s cabinet members, planning officers, and museum curator, along with the special interest group responsible for restoring the Spitfire and the logistics company responsible for moving the refurbished plane into the completed exhibition space.

“The project began on site as the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. This meant that stakeholders collaboratively supported the implementation of safe work systems to safeguard the construction team and ensure the works could be completed in accordance with national covid-19 legislation. The project team overcame international supply chain challenges and the scheme was successfully delivered within the agreed budget and programme parameters.”

Stoke-on-Trent, known as the Potteries, is internationally renowned for its ceramics. The area has a history of coal mining, so specialist geotechnical design input was critical. In conjunction with the Coal Authority, an approach was agreed to backfill existing mine workings beneath the proposed building, which allowed construction to proceed.

Matt Hall, national director for project management at Pick Everard said: “We are delighted to have delivered such a historically significant development, which creates a lasting legacy for the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Our expertise, combined with that from tourism and leisure architect Glancy Nicholls, has created a spectacular display space for the iconic Spitfire – a centrepiece the city can be proud of.”

The project is a key development in support of Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s strategy to improve attractions in the centre of the city and the overall visitor experience. The new spaces, constructed by Morgan Sindall Construction, allow the exhibition space to be enjoyed by people both inside and outside of the Potteries Art Gallery and Museum.

Cllr Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for infrastructure, regeneration and heritage, said: “We are really happy with the outcome of this project. Not only have we managed to pay homage to one of Stoke-on-Trent’s true icons – Reginald J. Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire plane – but we have also improved the aesthetics and accessibility for those walking to and around the site, through our new pedestrian links.

“Along with the socio-economic benefits that will come from this project, the site will add tangible value and energise the community, providing them with a new landmark the city can be proud of.”