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Stonehenge: Improving the visitor experience

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The Stonehenge Visitor Environmental Improvement project – which was implemented by English Heritage – was designed to improve both the landscape setting and visitor facilities of Stonehenge.

A new visitor building was 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.

A car park and coach park, with a capacity for 500 and 30 vehicles respectively, also formed part of the project. 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.

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

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

Each aspect of the Stonehenge project was 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 is respectful of the significance of the World Heritage site.

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

The new building is linked to the Stones through a low-key, fully accessible visitor shuttle system. The shuttle runs 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 was in the pipeline for 25 years and its implementation opens up access to the landscape which surrounds Stonehenge. In this scheme we had a solution which improves 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 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 was a huge privilege and this project was very much a team effort. We 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.”

Haley Sharpe Design Ltd

Haley Sharpe Design Ltd (hsd) offer interpretative and media planning, design and project management services to the museums, heritage and cultural sectors. The company was founded in 1983 and we has been operating in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Far East and North America ever since.

For more than 30 years, hsd has collaborated with a rich array of clients on a range of projects, from large national museums to small heritage organisations. Clients include the Royal Armouries, English Heritage, The National Trust, National Museums Liverpool, and The Smithsonian Institution, whilst projects include the Museum of Liverpool, the Ulster Museum, Hong Kong Maritime Museum and the Canadian War Museum.

Working on the Stonehenge Visitor Centre project, hsd provided interpretative design and project management services to ensure that the exhibit components at the Visitor Centre, and across the WHS landscape, provided a compelling and high quality experience for all visitors.

hsd Project Consultant, Oriel Wilson, said:

“hsd were delighted to be involved in the iconic Stonehenge project, which represented a step-change in the visitor experience and interpretative messaging offered at the site.”

Oriel added:

“At hsd we pride ourselves in being visitor-focussed, providing accessible high quality exhibition and media experiences for diverse audiences.”

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