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First World War in the Air

London, United Kingdom

First World War in the Air

The Royal Air Force Museum, located on the former Hendon Aerodrome, is a national museum set across five buildings and hangars. For this institution, RAA was asked to create a new permanent exhibition for a story largely untold: aviation during the First World War.

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The exhibition brings to life the compelling, entwined narratives of the people, innovations, engineering, and aircraft of the First World War, ultimately aiming to help audiences understand the pivotal role of aviation both then and now.

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The incredible tales of the men and women who served in the air forces—both in the air and on the ground—are interwoven with the technological breakthroughs that paved the way for what aviation has become today. In this way, the exhibition appeals to a diverse audience, without compromising the wealth of technical details attractive to more specialized visitors.

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Large-scale, theatrical installations combining media, aircraft, and objects—including an animated trench map and a dramatic aerial dogfight—connect the chapters of the museum’s story and bring the experience to life. Working closely with the museum, RAA developed an innovative approach to the interpretation and exhibition design that substantially reshaped the way in which visitors would encounter the collections. For instance, we took old drawings of pilot training devices and used them to design modern mechanical versions, which visitors can use.

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Rather than simply showcasing the collections, the exhibition is strongly narrative-led and coalesces around a single strong message: he who controls the air controls the battlefield.

Year 2014

Size 2,300 square metres

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Photography ©Andrew Lee