England’s oldest commissioned warship
The HMS Victory is synonymous with Admiral Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. They are inextricably linked. But this is only one chapter in her 260-year story. She has been built up over time – as much a patchwork of impressions by the communities around as the patchwork of materials used to keep her afloat and preserved. Today, she sits in Portsmouth’s history dockyard next to a dedicated visitor centre that welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
We envisioned a new story for the visitor centre. While displays on the ship itself tell the story of Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar, the centre offered a new way to tell the tale of an old ship.
Explore the Victory’s persona
Our proposed narrative journey is an exploration of the Victory’s personality. People connect to people – but the Victory is a character in her own right and is treated as such. You meet the Victory in all her guises through time – untested rookie, emblazoned fighter, national protector, war-torn survivor, maritime celebrity, ongoing conservation project.
By shifting perspectives, we can build up a patchwork impression of the Victory, using stories from the past and the present to reveal how aspects of her character have evolved across time. Just as the battle scars and rebuilds reveal her physical history, each story reveals who she has been and who she is today. The entire experience connects to and enhances the HMS Victory’s on-board story of the Battle of Trafalgar – the climactic moment where every aspect of Victory’s personality crescendos and explodes into all of the drama of battle on the high seas.
Evoking the iconic ship
Immersive experiences root you in different chapters of the Victory’s life while the design aesthetic is an abstraction of the ship’s form. Subtle hints to the rounded bow, internal planking, giant curved hull and the iconic stripped paint motif connect the visitor centre to the ship outside. Bold colours and forms nod to the original paintwork. But the ship is a patchwork, where old meets new, and this is brought out in the design. A contemporary aesthetic brings the museum into the 21st century. Paring back the design gives the exhibits room to breathe while light and media bring stories of the sea to life.