Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge project director for English Heritage, said: "This is an important step in returning Stonehenge to a more dignified setting and creating facilities more fitting for a world-renowned tourist attraction. We can now begin to look forward to providing a much improved, high quality experience for visitors at an environmentally sensitive development."
Sited 1.5 miles to the west of World Heritage Site, the Visitor Centre will not be visible from Stonehenge. The architectural concept is for an undulating canopy with a pair of self-contained ‘pods’ – one transparent and mainly of glass, the other solid and mainly of timber - sitting beneath. The roof is perforated at the edges to allow patterns of sun and shade to soften the solidity of the structure and moves to echo the rolling form of the surrounding landscape. The exhibition areas, café, shop and general facilities will be housed in the pods providing opportunities for interpretation and education. The facility will be constructed using local and sustainable building materials where possible. The centre will be linked to the monument by a low-key transit system.
With planning permission in place for the visitor centre, plans for the closure of the A344 adjacent to the Stones (from the A303 to Byway 12) will be put forward for approval. At the same time, Wiltshire Council will be consulting on proposals to restrict motorised vehicles on the remaining part of the A344 and on nearby Byways.
DCM Director, Stephen Quinlan said: “Designing a visitor centre at a site of such importance is both a major challenge and a serious responsibility. Our proposal, above all, seeks not to compromise the solidity and timelessness of the Stones, but to satisfy the brief with a design which is universally accessible, environmentally sensitive, and at the same time appears almost transitory in nature.”
Construction is planned for 2011 with the centre expected to open in 2012, prior to the Olympics.