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Thursday31 July 2014

Stonehenge visitor centre looks 'cheap and nasty'

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Denton Corker Marshall’s designs for a £25 million Stonehenge visitor centre have been compared to an “immigration detention centre”, just weeks before the planning application is due to be submitted

Following local consultation over the summer, client English Heritage is hoping to submit plans to Wiltshire County Council by the end of this month. It aims to meet the government’s target of opening the temporary facility in time for the influx of tourists attracted by the London 2012 Olympics.

But in a sign that the 20-year Stonehenge visitor centre saga is set to continue, councillor Paul Sample, a former mayor of Salisbury, has attacked the scheme as a “cheap and nasty” addition to the World Heritage Site; while Peter Alexander-Fitzgerald, a member of the International Council on Monuments & Sites, claimed the centre resembled “a derelict aircraft hangar”.

A model of the proposed centre.
A model of the proposed centre.

Denton Corker Marshall had previously worked up plans for a £65 million scheme but this was dropped in 2007 on cost grounds by the then architecture minister, Margaret Hodge. She promised a “world class” alternative would be created.

Sample said: “It’s cheap and nasty and isn’t going to do justice to the site. It looks like an immigration detention centre. It’s not something that makes you feel part of something ancient and mystic.

“We should be building something to last. We should have had an international competition.”

Alexander-Fitzgerald commented: “This looks like an IT student’s first attempt at rendered graphics. It’s amateurish and causes one to wonder about the quality of the finished product.

“If you only get the detailed images at the time of the planning application you can’t give a balanced critical opinion on the suitability of the design. From this image that just has to be no.”

An EH spokesman said the visitor centre would “sit delicately on top of the landscape with minimal impact”.

Denton Corker Marshall declined to comment.

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Readers' comments (10)

  • I had not realised that this new visitor centre is regarded as a temporary facility. Are there any plans for how it will be incorporated into a more permanent facility? The fundamental difficulty that has bedevilled the whole sorry saga is that the requirement for the interpretation facility within the visitor centre has not so far been understood. Once that requirement is clear, the size and shape of the building to wrap around it will become obvious, and the standard facilities (restaurant / shop / exhibits / archives / toilets) can be fitted around it. Of course, it has been difficult to know what form the interpretation facility should take, because the purpose and function of Stonehenge itself has not been understood. I have spent some time studying Stonehenge, and have a new (and hopefully better) understanding of its form and function. This has permitted a fresh approach to the form and function of the visitor centre to be envisaged. An outline impression is given in this 3D animation. I would be very interested to receive feedback. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX86DoIXZNM (Note that the side of the main structure is not open. It is shown cut away, to gain a view inside, in this animation.) There would be a full scale replica of Stonehenge inside (not shown). This would not have to be a slavish replica, but can be an inspirational modern sculpture. For example, it could be formed of highly polished stainless steel sheets, which the visitors could experience at close quarters. Like the C-Curve, it would be a significant attraction in itself. http://www.rogerbamber.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/yapb_cache/c_curve1_bamber.bxa2174awu80o0c848kcwgkkg.3s1np5gcr6ww4cgkkc8cwg4wk.th.jpeg Above the replica there would be a domed ceiling, forming a planetarium, on which the sunrise and sunset would be projected. Those who built Stonehenge were bold and ambitious. It is a disservice to their achevements if we build something now that does not acknowledge and respond to that.

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  • Typical lazy journalism from BD. Slow news week? How can this be seriously judged on seemingly poorly taken photographs of a model?

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  • Sorry Hugo I just don't understand your scheme. the visual is quite basic & doesn't communicate much information, also your text just seems to point to your scheme being based around a replica is this not a bit odd to have the main focus of the stonehenge visitor center a replica of the original which sits outside? Also i must add a few extra words to your description of the original builders, bold & ambitious yes, but were they not also religious zealots using slaves to construct their temple. Should this not also be addressed by the center? In addition I find your assured stance that you now know what the site was used for much more interesting, could you also post the designs for your time machine ;-)

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  • Snowy, many thanks for the feedback. Yes the visual is basic, but I hoped that it would give an "outline impression". (Nobody has funded me to do this, so I am just using Google Sketchup, which is freely available.) It may be that it was a special privilege to be able to work on its construction, as appears to be the case with the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. The reason why a replica is required, is that the original is broken, with many stones fallen, or entirely missing. If we are to demonstrate how its form performed its function, then as a minimum we need to have a complete replica. If you would like more details of my theory, then visit my website: www.brontovox.co.uk Also I have produced a video which gives an outline of my theory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJo59iFl8mY Of course, anybody is welcome to devise their own theory, but I would hope that visitors to this BD website would appreciate the way that the form of Stonehenge was very much following from its function as an astronomical observatory. Primarily it was for measuring the azimuth angles of the rising and setting positions of the sun and moon. It is remarkable that such an achievement was made at such an early date.

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  • Where are the real images and real comments... it seems more like a 'cheap and nasty' article by BD. No wonder the architects declined to comment.

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  • Poor model, poor photographs from bad angle don't give the scheme a chance. Nevertheless it does not reflect the standing of this famous site and deserves a national / world competition.

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  • never thought such 'sheds' are being built in developed countries..... and that also for visitors coming to a 'WORLD HERITAGE SITE' like the Stonehenge

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  • Lazy journalism ? more like lazy client in not providing press images on submission.

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  • it is presumptious to think that stonehenge was built using slave labour or even by religious zealots. they may have been aetheist moderates and the 'slaves' may have been a community based regeneration project unless snowy can produce evidence to the contrary using his own time machine. i think the mystery and associated inspiration generated by stonehenge is underplayed by the architects and to be fair is evident within Hugos project, however naive.

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  • THE PANEL SHOULD DISPLAY ALL CANDIDATES' SCHEMES IN PUBLIC AND LET EVERYONE HAS A 'CHOICE'

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