In honour of the aircrew of Bomber Command, the Memorial celebrates flight and the connection between earth and sky, while signifying the destruction of war through the fragmented wing forms of the central spire, surrounded by a series of walls in fractured concentric circles which hold the names of the aircrew of the Command lost during the Second World War. These fragments are set in a landscape which echoes the wartime airfields of Lincolnshire, the memorial being approached along an avenue crossing this landscape from the enclosure of the Chadwick Centre, evoking the journeys of the aircrew crossing to their aircraft at the start of a mission. The fragmentation and connection with the landscape continues into the design of the Chadwick Centre which is formed as an angular and inclined wing shard, sheltering a series of open and enclosed spaces and broken wall planes, some contained beneath the roof and others extending into the landscape.
The memorial spire is formed of two wing fragments, tapering as they rise towards the sky, connected by two perforated linking plates. The smooth, jointed external skin with internal faces having exposed supporting structure suggests the thin-skinned framed structures found in aircraft construction. The two fragments are orientated to turn visitors from the Memorial Avenue approach towards the north escarpment and Lincoln Cathedral – the visitor is inside a virtual wing when the Cathedral is revealed across the Witham Gap. The rear wing is 5 metres higher than the front wing, visually fragmenting the memorial at its apex and dissolving into the sky.
The names of the lost aircrew are laser-cut through steel panels fixed to heavy steel curved walls, arranged around the wing memorial in broken concentric circles and contained in a fragmented, circular paved area set in the open landscape. The first phase, now completed, commemorates the 26,296 aircrew of the Lincolnshire-based 1 and 5 Groups; this is to be followed by the names of aircrew from the other UK and Southern European Command Groups, totalling approximately 75,000 aircrew lost.
Both elements of the memorial are constructed of Corten steel plate, an alloyed steel which forms a patina preventing corrosion, giving the whole memorial an almost indefinite, maintenance-free lifespan. Paving around the spire is in cast stone setts; the memorial walls are set in bound gravel broken up with wildflower areas and curved seating and hedges.
The design concept for the Chadwick Centre is of an over-sailing wing fragment roof referencing a heavy bomber wing, visually connecting and engaging with the Spire memorial. The wing rises and tapers to the North and East, sheltering three principal spaces separated by two solid cores suggesting landing gear and engine cowls and supporting the wing / roof. The central principal space is transparent and open and reveals partial views of the Memorial from the approach to the Centre. The 2 outer principal spaces are more enclosed and grow from the cores, the southern space contained within the wing profile and the northern space more fragmented and spilling out to the north and west beyond the roof edge towards the memorial.
The central zone contains entrance, atrium, orientation and retail functions; it has an open gallery for exhibition forming a more contained entrance zone below and contrasting with the double height main space. The southern zone contains exhibition spaces on 2 floors, also with single and double height spaces. The northern zone contains a café / restaurant on the ground floor with a flexible exhibition transition area and an education centre on the first floor which also functions as a conference facility with auditorium and break-out space. The two core zones contain vertical circulation and ancillary spaces including WC’s and offices on the ground floor, with research, multi-media, classroom and plant spaces on the first floor.