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Object of the month: September 2015

Chris Wilkinson RA's design model of the Mary Rose Museum

Published 1 September 2015

The architect’s design for the new Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth was created to house the remains of the Tudor warship.

  • The Mary Rose was part of the “Navy Royal”, the ancestor of today’s Royal Navy. King Henry VIII established this fleet during the 1520s in the face of the threat posed by the French and Scottish navies; the Mary Rose was the flagship of the Royal High Admiral.

    On 19th July 1545 during the Battle of Solent, the Mary Rose sank while in combat with the French fleet. It remained stuck in the seabed of Portsmouth Harbour until its recovery in 1982. The ship and a selection of its contents were put on display in a temporary structure, until the architects Wilkinson Eyre, of which Chris Wilkinson RA is a founding partner, were commissioned to design a permanent museum to house them. The architectural practice Wilkinson Eyre created this concept model for the new museum in 2006.

    Formed in two segments, the model shows on one side the surviving starboard hull of the ship, (pictured), while the other side depicts the “virtual hull”, the missing port side from which visitors view the existing wreckage and exhibition displays. Wilkinson described the design as “like an oyster enclosing the pearl”. Re-creating the deck levels, visitors have the experience of being aboard and exploring the ship itself, through its various areas and salvaged objects shown in their original context.

  • Chris Wilkinson RA, Design model of the Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire

    Chris Wilkinson RA, Design model of the Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire, 2006.

    Acrylic and photopolymer resin; figures; polystyrene. © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

  • The translucent polymer surfaces were layered by laser using computer-generated design, and the two hulls are suspended as if afloat in space. Wilkinson Eyre use models like these throughout the design stage of their practice. Rather than showing final specific details of a design, the concept model is, as Wilkinson describes, “an abstraction of the architectural design, blurring the boundaries, like a piece of artwork.”

    Chris Wilkinson’s design for the new Mary Rose Museum is on display along with sketchbooks, drawings and watercolours from the last 30 years of his career in Thinking through drawing: Chris Wilkinson RA. Until 14 February 2016 in the Tennant Gallery and Richard Sharp Council Room.

    See September’s artist of the month, Daniel Maclise RA.