2005 – Unbuilt Antrim – Giants Causeway Visitor Centre
This is a project for a visitors centre in a magnificent natural landscape on the sea. A number of linked buildings – mostly single storey – are a better response than one larger and higher building: all public spaces are at ground floor level and directly facing external areas. The complex of buildings and exterior areas may be compared to a living cell, its nucleus being the meadow/ grove/ pond/ picnic area, and the buildings forming a membrane through which both people and supplies enter radially. This is only to suggest a functional layout, any further organic analogies being beyond our scope. There are two layers of sliding doors at the front, granting a great degree of flexibility: in the wintertime, both layers are kept closed all the time and a front gallery for circulation is formed. In the summertime, when the outer layer is open the gallery turns into a porch; when even the inner layer is open, people will flow freely in and out. Throughout the building, there’s space for storage and plants at the rear, easily accessible from the outside not to interfere with visitors’ experience (that’s why it’s called back-of-house indeed). Patterns of use are free and each exhibition/ event is a unique experience. Exhibitions may extend outdoors whenever the kind of objects on display allows to. Wooden decks in front of the Events room and Catering facilities (more can be added) further invite people to make use of external space. A light railway between the visitors’ centre and the rocks is proposed. No overhead lines are required, visual impact is at a minimum and it is less obtrusive than a bus service. Being automated it can continuously operate, people travelling between the visitors’ centre and the Causeway as long as they like. Grassy slopes – a natural continuation of the surrounding landscape – and wire mesh finishes help to minimise the impact of the car park. Despite being designed to last, fragmented volumes, rough materials, soft tunnels make it look less like a traditional permanent building and more like a spontaneous settlement or a ‘geological’ creation. And of course we wish to give visitors an highly civilised and structured experience which looks light and playful instead: visitors can chose their preferred paths through the building and exterior areas, but they will eventually visit it all. In doing so they are expected to spend the whole day between the visitors’ centre and the Giant’s Causeway.