Imperial War Museum

Metal Coating at the Imperial War Museum

Feature staircase, entrance staircase and façade panels


The Imperial War Museum (IWM) underwent a £40 million refurbishment in 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The transformative yet sympathetic design was by leading architects Foster and Partners.

We were briefed to provide metal finishing services for the museum’s main cantilever staircase (rising from the spectacular new atrium), as well as the entrance staircase and a number of façade panels.

The main staircase is made of steel and the challenge was to deliver a distinctive metal finish, inspired by the look and feel of an early 20th century battleship. Because of extensive public use, the metal coating had to be not only aesthetically effective and of guaranteed quality, but also extremely durable and maintenance free. With some of the staircase sections weighing up to four tonnes, the utmost care and precision was needed.

To allow for on-site welding, Bradleys Metal Finishers had to build into the project plan the feasibility of on-site touch-up following installation.


We worked closely with IWM and Foster and Partners, consulting and providing an extensive range of samples of metal coating finishes for consideration. The ultimate solution was a unique finish, comprising pure zinc, aged using the MET451 Metallique Age system. This gives a classic look and feel that complements the museum’s iconic exhibits and displays charting the history of warfare. Following exhaustive research, we opted for a dual metal coat system, which contained a metallic pearlescent clear coat to give a subtle yet sparkled metal finish.

We used precision masking to allow for welding to be done on site. We then had to find a way to re-create the finish accurately and seamlessly once the staircase sections were installed and welded. This involved hiring a specialist machine from the USA.

To support the world-renowned collection of artefacts, and also provide beauty and sustainability, we used carefully selected colours and materials on the architectural metalwork around the museum.

The museum is one of London’s top visitor attractions. It was vital that we delivered our contribution to the refurbishment project on time to enable reopening on schedule.

“It is a great honour to be here today to officially open the new atrium and First World War galleries.

I congratulate all those who have worked so incredibly hard, over so many months, to bring this spectacular project to such a triumphant conclusion.

After touring the Imperial War Museum’s new display which brings the war to life through personal possessions, priceless artefacts, military hardware and films, he described the attraction as a ‘spectacular project’.”

The Duke of Cambridge


“When I launched our plans for the First World War centenary, I said the renovated IWM London would be the centrepiece of our commemorations – and what a fitting centrepiece it is. I will never forget coming here as a child and being completely in awe of this museum and I will never forget the first time I brought my children here and started to explain to them what this museum was all about.

But I have to say, coming today and seeing what you’ve done with this great building and fantastic First World War exhibition you’ve absolutely blown me away.”

Prime Minister, David Cameron

Project Data

Location – Lambeth Road, London SE1

Sector – Exhibition & Commercial

Completion – 2014

Items Coated – Entrance staircase, façade plates, columns & posts, main atrium staircase

Systems – Metalage®, Powder Coat & Wet Spray

Durability – Internal

Finish – Dark Charcoal Metallic &
MTL451 Zinc Age – Imperial

MTL451 Zinc Age - Imperial