A century’s worth of history spread across two exhibition halls in a suitably sobering canalside building
Architect Daniel Libeskind's astonishing building, an aluminium-clad landmark on the banks of the Manchester ship canal, could easily have overshadowed the content within. Brilliantly, it does not. Sloping floors and obtuse angles inside are a deliberately disorientating attack on the senses. Like Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin, the experience of the building itself establishes a state of mind that makes what you're seeing all the more effective.
There are two exhibition halls. The main space houses the permanent display where a fascinating timeline from 1914 to the present leads you around the walls to themed bunkers, while objects like a huge section of twisted girder from New York’s World Trade Center interrupt the flow to shock, highlight and emphasise points on your journey. At regular intervals, a projector show brings the walls alive. Temporary exhibitions occupy a second hall, and the giant air shaft, accessible via a deliberately slow and shaky lift, ascends awkwardly to a skewed viewing platform.
Somehow, it's an inspiring rather than depressing experience.