MGMA designs £2m U-Boat museum for the Wirral

The Liverpool-based studio has submitted a planning application for the project, which would see the redevelopment of the town’s existing U-Boat Story attraction, next to the Grade II-listed Woodside Ferry Terminal building on the Woodside Waterfront.

MGMA’s designs would retain an existing German U-Boat U-534, a type of naval submarine operated by Germany during the Second World War, on the site to form the centrepiece of a new visitor attraction.

A new hangar museum building, including an event space and terrace with riverside views, would sit parallel to the remodelled submarine enclosure.

The museum would be dedicated to the Battle of the Atlantic – a  contest between the Western Allies and the Axis powers for the control of Atlantic sea routes, which ran from 1939 until the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

An ‘immersive visitor experience’, it would feature internal displays and exhibits including ‘a dramatic encounter with an aircraft’, as well as the external submarine enclosure, where the U-534 ‘will be encountered from multiple levels’, from a new entrance bridge to low-level walkways.

The development would be delivered by Big Heritage CIC, a not-for-profit organisation based in Liverpool which manages and protects historic locations and museums in the North West, which is paid for primarily by government Levelling Up funding.

MGMA visuals for proposed U-Boat museum in Birkenhead

MGMA says the new museum would sit across the water from its ‘sister venue’ at the Western Approaches in Liverpool, also operated by Big Heritage, to collectively form a ‘new campus’ across the Mersey, ‘bringing together the Allied naval HQ with the enemy submarine’.

The design will form part of several significant changes to the Woodside Ferry Approach proposed as part of the Birkenhead 2040 Masterplan.

Subject to planning permission, a provisional start-on-site date has been set for next spring with completion expected in summer 2025.

MGMA director Matthew Ashton said the firm’s design approach ‘draws on the maritime and railway engineering heritage of Woodside, responding to the riverside and its infrastructural character’.

He added: ‘The new museum hangar building, sitting in contrast to the 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 echo the adjacent submarine.’

MGMA visuals for proposed U-Boat museum in Birkenhead

Project data
Location Woodside, Birkenhead
Local authority Wirral Borough Council
Type of project Culture, new build
ClientBig Heritage CIC
Architect MGMA Architects
Structural engineer Sutcliffe
M&E consultant Rodney Environmental Consultants
Quantity surveyor Cavendish Bloor
Principal designer Safer Sphere
Main contractor TBC
Funding UK Government Levelling Up Fund
Tender date January 2024
Start on site date Spring 2024
Completion date Summer 2025
Contract duration 16 months
Gross internal floor area 623m²
Form of contract and/or procurement JCT ICD 2016
Annual CO2 emissions Target net zero 
Total cost 
£2 million