Listed Wind Tunnel Buildings

Farnborough Business Park, Hampshire

Date of construction:

  • Wind Tunnel Buildings R52, c.1917; Q121, c.1935; R133, c.1940
  • Portable Airship Hangar, c.1912

Original designer:

  • Wind Tunnel Buildings by Royal Aircraft Establishment Factory
  • Portable Airship Hangar by Balloon Factory for Royal Engineers

Client: Segro (formerly Slough Estates)

The vast 52ha former factory site, containing over 100 buildings, was once a hotbed of cutting edge research and testing in aircraft design. This was where the Hurricane and Spitfire, the iconic fighter planes of the Battle of Britain were developed, and Concord invented during the late 1950s. The former Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough housed some of the most important buildings in British aviation history.

Following the decommissioning of the factory in 1998, the site was bought by Segro with the intention of demolishing most of the structures to create Farnborough Business Park. However, the sites’ historic core of listed buildings included early 20th century wind tunnels and sheds constructed by re-using elements of the giant airship hangar that had been dismantled in 1916.

Julian Harrap Architects prepared a masterplan that highlighted the importance of the historic core and identified key areas for new development. Our work also involved the repair of the three listed wind tunnel buildings and re-erecting the airship hangar. The listed status of the wind tunnels was reviewed prior to their restoration and resulted in both Q121 and R133 re-designated Grade I and R52 re-listed at Grade II.

We established a hierarchy of significance for the wind tunnels restoration to ensure that any alterations did not restrict their future re-use. Meanwhile, the grade II re-listed airship hangar was constructed using its original, salvaged lattice steel frames and placed in the business park’s new central square.

In addition to the restoration work, we acted as an intermediary between Segro and the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST) a group of aviation history enthusiasts, to secure a successful scheme that satisfied all parties.


  • RIBA Award for the re-erection of the former Portable Airship Hangar
  • RIBA Award for the listed Wind Tunnel Buildings
  • RICS Award for the re-erection of the former Portable Airship Hangar and listed Wind Tunnel Buildings
  • RIBA South Conservation Award for the former portable Airship Hangar
  • Rushmoor Council Civic Design Award for the re-erection of the former portable Airship Hangar
  • Shortlisted for RIBA Crown Conservation Award

Photographer: Dennis Gilbert