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2005 – Unbuilt Antrim – Giants Causeway Visitor Centre

Architects: Verstas Architects

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The Visitor Facilities Building is situated on the route to the Giant’s Causeway, as the last outpost before the destination. The development site is located at the point where the grassy hills fall abruptly to the sea. The landscape is defined by openness and wide views, articulated by scattered singular rocks, hedgerows, stonewalls and the occasional building.

The eastern side of the site is reserved for vehicular traffic, the western is designated for the use of pedestrians and cyclists. Separating the two from each other the Visitor Facilities Building is situated in the centre of the site, a short distance from the ridge.

When approached afar from the north, the building forms a distinct part of the silhouette of the landscape. Upon closing in the building gets hidden behind the ridge, only to re-emerge as the visitor climbs to the level of the building.

Clad in local stone, the Visitor Facilities Building rests in the landscape with the same gravity as the ancient boulders, rising to the challenge posed by the rugged landscape. The building forms the defining wall for a terrace facing west and the backdrop for the outdoor spaces reserved for leisure activities. The building achieves a small footprint by grouping the functions and services in a compact and efficient cluster.

A ramp leads the visitors from a gathering place by the green outdoor spaces towards the terrace and the main entrance. The entrance lobby, information centre, retail space, cloakrooms and the catering area combined to the terrace with a silk-screened glass wall, all form a interconnected and spacious entrance level. The learning suite and space for internal events are situated on a mezzanine overlooking the lobby. The exhibition spaces comprise the upper stories and the ground floor has its own entrance and service spaces for cyclists and pedestrians.

The interior spaces are nested around an enigmatic ravine, functioning as the internal focal point for the building and it´s circulation. The visitor journeys upward through the exhibition spaces that are terraced at half-floor intervals around the ravine, enabling the easy control of access to different exhibitions. The stairs climb along the sides of the ravine as a cliff path and the route is enlivened by controlled glimpses of the landscape, culminating at the top floor bridge, where the visitor is treated to a magnificient view of the cliffs and the sea. The path down is a long, straight staircase, facing a breathtaking view towards the sea. After the descent, the visitors route makes its way by the external exhibition areas, the event space, picnic area, and eventually to the path leading to the Giant’s Causeway.

Verstas Architects consists of four equal members: Vaino Nikkila; Jussi Palva; Riina Palva; and Ilkka Juhani Salminen.