Our Projects

Albion Dock

Project Overview:

The Albion Dock project is an ambitious expansion of the existing SS Great Britain (SSGB) museum. The centrepiece of the Albion Dockyard will be the recreation of a full-size version of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first ship, the Paddle Steamer Great Western (PSGW). This ship, originally built in Bristol, was the world’s first transatlantic ocean liner. The structure of the recreation will be meticulously designed to meet modern building standards.

It will feature a steel skeleton comprising moment frame ‘ribs’ at regular centres. This design ensures that the majority of vertical loads pass through the keel of the ship, effectively replicating the typical dry dock loading arrangements and thereby reducing the need for intrusive foundations. Internally, the front half of the ship will be designed to offer large open-plan spaces for displaying voyage experiences and exhibitions, while the internal layout to the rear of the ship will faithfully replicate the historic layout based on record drawings.

In addition to the PSGW recreation, the development will include a raised viewing platform and auditorium seating within the historic dry dock. These elements will ingeniously obscure the mechanical and electrical (M&E) equipment below, which is necessary to power and run the experiences and exhibition spaces within the PSGW recreation.

The existing dry dock will be divided into two sections with a mass concrete dam, allowing the harbour end of the dock to remain operational as a working dry dock while creating a dry and safe environment for the PSGW recreation. The mass concrete solution has been carefully selected to minimise intrusive connections or ‘keys’ into the listed dock structure.

Furthermore, there are proposals to construct new buildings and alter existing ones within the SSGB site. These plans include new museum buildings, such as a recreation of a historic clock tower, staff offices, a new café and restaurant, and potentially the refurbishment, relocation, and exhibition of Brunel’s Swivel Bridge, currently located at the Cumberland Basin in Bristol.

Our Involvement:

Clarkebond is responsible for overseeing all elements of the civil and structural design. In addition, we have conducted several geotechnical investigations to determine the ground conditions and identify potential foundation solutions. The project is currently at RIBA stage 3 and has been submitted for planning approval. The next crucial stage is to secure funding for the development and progress to detailed design.

Engineers Involved:

Challenges and Resolutions:

The historic location and the listed dry dock have presented several constraints on the project. These constraints include limited options for foundations, reduced fixing options, and restrictions on the locations of the PSGW and auditorium seating.

Despite these challenges, the Clarkebond team has worked diligently and collaboratively with the conservation architect and the wider consultant team. Our goal has been to ensure that the impact of the proposed development on the historic fabric is minimal and reversible wherever possible.

Relationship with the Team:

Our relationship with the project team has been excellent. We previously collaborated successfully on the Being Brunel Museum with the same consultant team, which has fostered a strong working relationship.

Relationship with the Client:

Our relationship with the client has also been very positive. We had the pleasure of working with the same client team on the Being Brunel Museum project, which has contributed to a strong and productive partnership.

Client Satisfaction:

The client has expressed satisfaction with our work. Here is a comment from the client:

“Many thanks for your efforts in developing the Albion Project through 2023. The designs are in excellent shape and we’re proud to see our planning application is validated and now viewable on the Planning Portal.” – Barnaby Haire, Project Assistant


The project features an innovative design of steel framing that is tailored to suit the external shape of the PSGW, while simultaneously creating open-plan internal exhibition spaces. This approach allows for both structural integrity and functional flexibility, enhancing the overall visitor experience.

The Albion Dock – SS Great Britain

Project Facts

  • Appointment: Invited to Tender 
  • Main Client: SS Great Britain Trust 
  • Start Date/Completion: November 2022 – May 2026 
  • Project Value: £20 Million
  • Services Provided: Civil, Structural and Geoenviromental