Stonehenge Visitor Centre. Not great in terms Architecture,
but was it worth going?
After years of waiting to see this be built. The final version (for me) certainly lack inspiration.
I first saw the initial concept designs for the visitor in the Building Design Magazine. I really liked what was put forward by the Architect, however this design which included a tunnel under the A303 was far too expensive around £500m. The final project bill was around £27m, so you can guess the difference in design already.
This design as my intro indicated left me feeling well "meh". The Architects comments on the design, states the design should not upstage the stones and be more of a prelude to the stones. I think they have certainly achieved this in as much as this centre could have been put anywhere in the country.
While I understand this concept, the stones are 1.5km away and you cannot even see them from the visitor centre. The main element I really dislike is the roof. Over thought and not interesting in the slightest.
Looking past my initial comments on design, the architectural technology was fairly good and the finishes adopted were standard throughout. My main observation on the whole project is the building location.
It's situated in a dip which lends itself to prevailing winds. This is equally compounded by a wind tunnel effect created by the proximity of the separate building structures and the over sailing roof design, which pushes the wind through the central orientation section. So, while you are queuing for a ticket you are hit by wind the whole time. If you happen to visit in October like me, you will be nice and cold by the time you get your ticket.
The café and shop section are encased in a frameless glass box which have good detailing floor to roof. Internally the finishes are simple with not much to comment on. The museum section is clad externally in timber boards which are finished over openings in a jagged effect. This section also houses the toilet block that has good amount of facilities. Inside the museum the finishes are simple, and the flow works well.
As a building visit I have to agree with most of critics about this project. It's not great and the ticket price is a little steep at £14.50 per ticket for a museum that you can do in 30mins and bus ride to the stones.
So how could the wind tunnel be stopped? Some layered screening to stop the wind could be a good option. This could have been done using some more landscaping or third small building. Putting something in the way to create a negative space for the wind would of solved the problem.
My key take home from this visit was the building position and the how the buildings and roof have created a wind tunnel. Was a clear site analysis done? From review of the planning application this site was identified as the most suitable to gain planning approval but no further detail.
The building position and oversailing roof has created a wind tunnel.