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The new Visitors Centre was shown off this week. It’s unfair to fully judge it yet but 3 things stood out for us (one good, one bad and one uncertain):

The look
Early on there was bitter criticism (“like an immigration detention centre” said a former Mayor of Salisbury; “incongruous” said CABE, the Government’s design watchdog). Not being design experts we can’t say if those criticisms are valid or have been met but it comes down to personal taste and it looks OK to us. More to the point we strongly empathise with the architects when they say: “If once back at home, a visitor can remember their visit to the stones but can’t remember the visitor centre they passed through on the way, we will be happy”. We also think that the main advantage of how it looks is that it can’t be seen from the stones – which wasn’t always the plan!

The function
Several years ago we noted that according to the plans “Retail, Catering and Back of House facilities” would comprise 1,380 sq m whereas “Interpretation and Education” would be only 600 sq m. It seems that ratio still broadly applies, so the amount of space within the building devoted to “interpreting the monument” (which was always said to be the main aim of spending the money building it) is just two and a bit tennis courts and a lot less than that devoted to providing meals, memorabilia  and  ”back of house ” facilities. That seems a shame, especially as the name seems to have expanded into “The Stonehenge Exhibition and Visitors Centre”.

The roof
It is still perforated – not just in the outer canopy but right inside. The architect previously commented that “it doesn’t protect you from the rain – if it’s raining when you visit Stonehenge you’re going to get wet anyway.” It’s hard to tell if better has now been thought of this and arrangements have been made to stop people getting wet – or not. Does anyone know?


October 2013

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