Plan for Stonehenge visitor centre unveiled

A computer generated graphic of Denton Corker Marshall’s design for the Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The latest stage in a long-running saga was reached on Monday when a blueprint for a new £25m visitor centre for Stonehenge and its wider development was unveiled.

Plans were first mooted in 1986 to improve the facilities, access and landscape at the Stone Age monument, which is a World Heritage Site and one of the richest prehistoric sites in Europe.

In 2007 plans to bore a 2.1km tunnel for the A303 which runs extremely close to the monument were abandoned due to estimated costs of more than £500m and the planned visitor centre was also abandoned.

The same architects, Denton Corker Marshall, are now submitting new plans for a visitors’ centre 2.5km away from the stones and on the other side of a ridge so that it will remain invisible from the monument itself.

The design for the visitor centre, which will be linked to the monument by a low-key transit system, consists of a diaphanous perforated metal canopy which sails over a pair of buildings, one clad in timber and containing the education facilities and the other fully glazed and housing the cafe and shop with a covered but open-air orientation centre in between. The roof is shown supported on a series of spindly columns, not all parallel but more like reeds oscillating in the breeze.

The area around Stonehenge itself will be cleaned up with the removal of the A344, which runs right past the monument. Car parking will be largely obscured beyond a neighbouring ridge and with the aid of landscaping.

Architect Stephen Quinlan told the FT: “If the visitor remembers nothing of the visitor centre but only the stones, we’ll probably have done our job.”

The works will be funded by English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Highways Agency, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Transport and it is hoped it will be ready for before the 2012 Olympics.

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