American Air Museum Awarded Grade II* Listed Status

This is despite the site being below the minimum age for it to be listed, usually 30 years.

The American Air Museum at IWM Duxford, Europe’s largest air museum, has been listed at Grade II* status.

The memorial glass sculpture ‘Counting the Cost’ by Renato Niemis, which lines the approach ramp leading to the museum entrance, is also part of the listing.

The minimum age for a site to be listed is typically 30 years. However, the American Air Museum has been listed due to the high level of architectural and historic interest.

IWM Duxford is a former RAF and United States Army Air Forces station, with many of the original historic structures listed.

Its displays acknowledge the emergence and dominance of US airpower during the 20th Century and pay tribute to the 30,000 airmen who lost their lives flying out of British bases during the Second World War.

The flying symbolism is highlighted in the building’s resemblance to a Second World War blister hangar, an arched, portable building.

The American Air Museum was purpose built at IWM Duxford between 1995 and 1997 to exhibit Imperial War Museums’ collection of American military aircraft, widely regarded as the most impressive group outside the United States, says Historic England.

IWM Duxford is considered Britain’s best-preserved Second World War airfield, the public body that looks after England's historic environment, added.

The ‘Counting the Cost’ memorial is made up of 52 large glass panels engraved with cross-like silhouettes of the 7,031 American aircraft that were lost on operations (Picture: IWM American Air Museum IWM Duxford).

Historic and contemporary flying continues at the venue. 

The ‘Counting the Cost’ memorial is made up of 52 large glass panels engraved with cross-like silhouettes of the 7,031 American aircraft that were lost on operations, resembling formations of aircraft and the regimented lines of a war cemetery. 

Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "This listing demonstrates that the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford is both a stunning example of modern architecture and, alongside the 'Counting the Cost' war memorial sculpture, an important memorial to those serving in the Second World War.

“I'm pleased that we are able to recognise the museum's architectural and historical significance and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by protecting this site for future generations."

The museum itself was designed by Foster + Partners and won critical acclaim in 1998 when it was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize.

Foster + Partners founder and executive chairman Norman Foster said: “Between 1943 and 1945, Duxford was an American airbase for significant numbers of American airman who lost their lives in the war.

"In that spirit, the building is both a museum and a memorial – the entrance is respectful as if entering a tomb, which opens up to an airy, hangar-like space."

There are more than 400,000 items on the National Heritage List for England, covering England's most valued historic places.

There are three grades of listing – Grade II, Grade II* and Grade I. Listing allows Historic England to highlight what is significant about a building or site, and helps to make sure that any future changes to it do not result in the loss of its significance.

IWM Duxford reopened to the public on 3 December following the English national lockdown.

Cover image: IWM American Air Museum IWM Duxford.