U Boat Story

MGMA Architects have secured planning permission to redevelop the U-Boat Story attraction at the Woodside waterfront in Birkenhead. With principal funding from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund, the £2mn development will be delivered by Big Heritage CIC, an award winning not-for-profit organisation who operates, manages, and protects a number of historic locations and museums in the UK north west.

The proposed development seeks to retain the WWII German U-Boat U-534 as the heart of a new visitor attraction, dedicated to the Battle of the Atlantic, connecting Birkenhead with this world-shaping story. Together with the sister venue at Western Approaches in Liverpool, also operated by Big Heritage, a new campus across the Mersey will be formed, bringing together the Allied naval HQ with the enemy submarine; the hunter and the hunted.

The scheme features a new hangar museum building element located parallel to the U-534 submarine enclosure, in a perpendicular arrangement to the adjacent Grade II listed Booking Hall at Woodside Ferry Terminal.

The design approach draws on the maritime and railway engineering heritage of Woodside, responding to the riverside and its infrastructural character. The new museum hangar building, sitting in contrast to the Grade II listed ferry terminal, provides a simple, elegant silhouette to the Mersey waterfront. The materiality echoes the maritime context, with the steelwork frame and junctions exposed to respond to the adjacent submarine.

The remodelled low level U-534 enclosure incorporates multi-level movement around the submarine, from the new entrance bridge to the low level walkways, all fully accessible via steps and a lift. The ground floor of the building contains the large object display area to the west of the plan, which includes a dramatic encounter with an aircraft. The visitor proceeds to the central area of the plan, where thematic interactive displays are located. To the rear and east of the plan is the visitor amenities, including the event space, opening onto the terrace with spectacular riverside views.