Futuristic feel to Stonehenge

Futuristic feel to Stonehenge

Futuristic feel to Stonehenge

So says the UK government’s design­watchdog over plans for a controversial £20m visitor centre at Stonehenge, the megalithic jewel in England’s cultural crown.  The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), has criticised the design of the proposed centre, claiming the futuristic building by Denton Corker Marshall does little to enhance the 5,000-year-old standing stones which attract more than 800,000 visitors each year.

Its concerns are the latest chapter in the long saga surrounding the English Heritage-backed project, and follow a government decision two years ago to scrap on cost grounds a highly ambitious £65m scheme to build a tunnel to reroute traffic to protect the World Heritage site.

The centre, which has been approved by Wiltshire county council planners, has divided opinion.

“We question whether, in this landscape of scale and huge horizons and with a very
robust end point that has stood for centuries and centuries, this is the right design approach?” said Diane Haigh, CABE’s director of design review.

“You need to feel you are approaching Stonehenge. You want the sense you are walking over Salisbury Plain towards the stones.” But the “twee little winding paths” were “more appropriate for an urban ­garden” than the “big scale open air setting the stones have,” she added.

The many columns were meant to be “lots of trunks” holding up a “very delicate roof,” she said. “Is this the best approach on what is actually a very exposed site. In particular, if it’s a windy, rainy day, as it is quite often out there, it’s not going to give you shelter. We are concerned its very stylish nature will make it feel a bit dated in time, unlike the stones which have stood the test of time.”

CABE believed the location of the centre, at Airman’s Corner, is good, and were pleased “something was happening at last,” but questioned the “architectural approach.”

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