Inspired by the notion of a globe, shattered by conflict and then reassembled, Libeskind's design for the building fragments the museum into three enormous parts. Each "shard" bears a curvature identical to that of our planet, so the ostensibly distorted angles the museum's walls make with the floor are actually at exact right angles to the earth. The three shards correspond to the three arenas of war: Earth, Air, and Water.
The Earth Shard, the floor of which curves, forms the base of the building. Atop the vertical Air Shard, which resembles an airplane hangar, sits an observation deck where visitors can see the city of Manchester. The Water Shard tilts like a boat at sea and contains a restaurant overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal.
After multiple budget cuts and design modifications, the building was built for £28 million ($65 million) in collaboration with Sir Robert McAlpine and the engineering company, Arup.