Fort Nelson Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth

Project: Fort Nelson Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth

Once an impenetrable ring of masonry and earthworks, designed to protect Britain’s premier naval dockyard in Portsmouth, Fort Nelson is now open to all visitors thanks to a range of easily accessible automatic entrances.

The glass entrances have been installed as part of a £3.5m redevelopment of the impressive Royal Armouries Museum, which features new interactive displays and iconic exhibits as well as a discreet purpose-built visitor centre that is submerged in the ground and covered in grass.

Improving the ancient monument’s accessibility was a key part of this transformation, so GEZE UK installed two circular glass entrances to the visitor centre to reflect the round nature of the new building and the hill fort itself, before installing an unusual glass lobby within the original building’s ancient arched entrance.

At the state of the art visitor centre, sustainability and access were important, but the design also needed to suit the subterranean nature of the building. As well as complementing the shape of the new building, GEZE’s two circular entrances featuring Slimdrive SCRs, were chosen because they provide a feeling of light and space, maximising the available light within the centre. Suitable for high footfall, the 360o door systems also create a wide space to allow easy access and act as a draft lobby with an integral air curtain, preventing heat loss and gain.

As part of the refurbishment within the older building, GEZE UK specified and installed a bespoke entrance comprising a bi-parting Slimdrive SL sliding door operator, with an energy-efficient Slimdrive SC behind it, creating a small but accessible lobby area in a confined space beneath an archway.

All the operators installed at Fort Nelson are part of GEZE UK’s Slimdrive range, which means they are just 7cm high and can be mounted discreetly. They have also been designed and tested to meet the requirements of all relevant standards and regulations, including Building Bulletin 93, Approved Documents B and M, as well as assisting with the vigorous demands of the Equality Act.

Fort operations manager Nigel Hosier said: “Since the refurbishment, our visitor numbers have jumped by 54 per cent. In fact, a total of 20,128 people have passed through these doors during April, May and June, which shows that we’ve succeeded in creating a state-of-the-art visitor attraction. As a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Fort Nelson was not originally designed for visitors with special access requirements, so it was important to install automatic doors that were not just functional, but that also seamlessly merged with the surrounding area and buildings so as to not spoil the atmosphere of this historic place.”

GEZE UK’s operations director Simon Bowden added: “Fort Nelson is a unique reminder of Britain’s past and it was important to us that we helped preserve its character and ambience, as well as making the site and its exhibits accessible for as many people as possible. This isn’t just about making sure it’s wheelchair friendly; it’s important that visitor attractions like this are family friendly too.”