South West

Stonehenge: Improving the visitor experience

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

A project to improve the visitor experience at Stonehenge continues to make great progress.

The Stonehenge Visitor Environmental Improvement project – which is being implemented by English Heritage – aims to improve both the landscape setting and visitor facilities of Stonehenge. A new visitor building will be constructed at Airman’s Corner – 1.5 miles to the west of Stonehenge – to house museum-quality exhibitions, a spacious café with indoor and outdoor seating, an improved and much larger retail unit and a dedicated education space.

In addition, a car park and coach park, with a capacity for 500 and 30 vehicles respectively, is also being installed.

In order to return the historic site back to a more tranquil setting the A344 road between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12 will close, fences will then be removed and the road surface will be removed and covered over with grass. A new roundabout will also be constructed at Airman’s Corner.

Once the new visitor building is open, work will begin on removing existing outdated facilities and restore the area to grass. All the landscape restoration work will be complete in summer 2014, but it will take some time for the full visual effect of the grass reinstatement to be realised.

Whilst work is taking place on the project, no part of the Stonehenge site will be closed.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Work on the construction of the new visitor building started in July 2012 and is currently scheduled to reach completion towards the end of 2013. Vinci Construction is the main contractor on the project, whilst the design is by leading architectural practice Denton Corker Marshall.

English and European hardwood timber merchants, Associated Timber Services Ltd, is delivering sweet chestnut cladding for use on the Stonehenge Visitor Environmental Improvement project. The cladding has been weathered for 12 months in order to meet the architect’s specifications.

Commenting on the project, Associated Timber Services Ltd General Manager, Rob Alderson, said:

“Working on this project is great. We are very proud to be associated with such a prestigious site as Stonehenge.”

In February 2013, Vinci Construction started to erect a bird-cage scaffold which is being used to install the undulating canopy roof, which is a distinctive feature of the building’s design.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Each aspect of the Stonehenge project has been carefully considered in order to minimise the visual intrusion to the surrounding landscape. The main visitor building is a high quality functional facility, which is light and unimposing and will be respectful of the significance of the World Heritage site.

The new building is being constructed to achieve a high BREEAM rating, will be energy efficient and will include an open loop ground source heating system, fully insulated cavity walls, mixed mode ventilation and a perforated roof. Rainwater harvesting will be included on the roof of the building and will be used for washroom facilities.

The new building will be linked to the Stones through a low-key, fully accessible visitor shuttle system. The shuttle will run along the footprint of the closed A344, reducing the need to create further infrastructure.

Commenting on the project, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, Loraine Knowles, said:

“This project has been in the pipeline for 25 years and its implementation will open up access to the landscape which surrounds Stonehenge. In this scheme we have a solution which will improve the setting of the ancient monument, the presentation of the site and the experience for all our 1.1 million visitors each year.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

“The construction of the visitor building is just one aspect in transforming what is widely agreed to be an unsatisfactory tourist and cultural experience. The way in which people visit Stonehenge in the future will change: we will be uplifting the whole experience to a level that befits this extraordinary and important monument not just upgrading the visitor facilities, important though those are.”

Loraine added:

“To be involved with this important work is a huge privilege and this project has been very much a team effort. We have had a lot of involvement from some key partners, including the National Trust, Wiltshire Council, the Highways Agency, Wiltshire Heritage Museum and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. I am delighted that this is finally happening.”

About the author

Roma Publications

Leave a Comment