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British Film Institute Master Film Archive, hidden away in the Warwickshire countryside just outside the village of Gaydon is the pioneering Master Film Archive for the British Film Institute. The 3000m2 building sits in a secluded clearing on a disused Ministry of Defence bunker that once stored nuclear warheads. The Master Film Archive stores 450,000 canisters of acetate and nitrate film reels which are highly flammable. The films are of great historical value and it was therefore vital that any building made to store the film be of the most exacting standards to make sure that this important resource could be maintained for future generations.

Project Team

Client British Film Institute
Architect Edward Cullinan Architects
Project manager Buro Four
Structural engineer Curtis Consulting
Services engineer Couch Perry & Wilkes

Project Value

project value - £9 million


  • Prime Minister’s Award for Best Public Building 2012
  • RIBA Award and Regional Building of the Year 2012
  • ‘Sustain’ Magazine Award for Design & Architecture 2013
  • BCI Awards Building Project of the Year (£3m to £50m) - Highly Commended 2012
  • AIA UK Excellence in Design Award Commendation 2012
  • Building Awards Project of the Year Finalist 2012
  • RICS Awards - Design & Innovation Award Finalist 2012
  • BREEAM Excellent (76.43% and one of the highest in the UK that year)

"“This building might be described as a Modernist machine for preserving culture. The film stores protect 190,000 canisters of unstable nitrate film, and 240,000 acetate reels at minus 5C, and at a fixed humidity. The archive could have been a simple response to functional imperatives – a serviceable oblong of concrete bunkers equating form with function – but this is more ambitious: a matrix of concrete bunkers clad with corrugated stainless steel; a distinct, characterful piece of architecture. In plan, elevations and material detailing, the Archive’s design draws from both a stripped down industrial modernism, yet also radiates a very particular kind of 21st century finesse and environmental efficiency”." - RIBA Awards 2012 Citation

""The BFI's new Master Film Store has radically improved the conditions in which a large portion of the Nation's Film Collection is stored and will preserve this vital part of our shared cultural heritage for years to come. In meeting the extraordinary and challenging design brief, the team has created a sophisticated and sustainable building...The Master Film Store has set a new benchmark for safe and sustainable storage within the international film archiving community."" - Sarah-Jane Lucas, Head of Strategic Projects, BFI, January 2012

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