Stonehenge Visitor Centre
by Denton Corker Marshall


Dezeen Wire: work finally starts this week on architect Denton Corker Marshall's design for a new visitor centre at Stonehenge, a prehistoric stone circle in England, after years of wrangling and delay, English Heritage has announced (+ slideshow).

Stonehenge Visitor Centre by Denton Corker Marshall

In 2009 the Australian architecture firm won a competition to replace existing facilities branded "a national disgrace", but plans were ditched the following year by the incoming government.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre by Denton Corker Marshall

The design, which was the latest in a string of proposals dating back to 2003 for the World Heritage Site, was later rescued by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre by Denton Corker Marshall

As well as a low-key visitor building, the £27 million project involves the closure and grassing over of the A344 road that runs alongside the monument and the removal of the existing car park, underpass, toilets and other facilities.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre by Denton Corker Marshall

The visitor centre will be constructed away from the stones, with visitors reaching the monument on foot or by shuttle.

  • dimitri

    It is shameful designing such a commonplace building on that sacred site. Some more sensitivity at least.

  • alex

    I'd like to know more about the design… This is a design blog, not a general news website.

  • I frankly cannot find how this centre relates to either its location or the historic site it’s supposed to serve.

  • Aaron Seymour

    DCM have done some nice work but they are not the architects for this site and neither is the solution. This could be a shopping centre or office park. There's no relationship to either site or context. Material choice seems particularly poor.

    Where is Peter Zumthor when you need him.

  • Juan

    I hate to say this, but this is terrible. There is no context, and to say (if it's the case) that the pattern on the roof relates or responds to the relevant site and context is misleading and foolish. A grand missed opportunity for contemporary architecture to respond to one of the primal architectural sites. Kudos on advertising.

  • erasmus

    This is one of the most scaring messages you brought on Dezeen! These well-made renderings prove that this building should never be executed! (The main reason to make a rendering first.) If the architect understands and respects the meaning of the monument, he should take these images seriously and stop it.

  • Matthew

    Isn’t the primary purpose of this building to infringe on the landscape as little as possible, to allow people to pass freely through thus not competing with Stonehenge visually? I personally think it does a good job at this. It’s very subtle.

  • Redfern

    Building in this kind of context is extremely difficult. I agree with some of the earlier comments requesting further information – a site plan would be good for a start. Presumably this building is located quite a distance from the monument itself, and probably in a location that would disturb the wider archaeological heritage the least. Other information that would be very much welcomed is how they are rerouting the existing road nearby, how are they going to manage parking, access etc., how many people will be given access to the site at any one time, what type of shuttle will provide access, how will it be housed and managed, how will the building impact on the valley, will it be visible from the site etc.

    This is a very complex and important building and it warrants further explanation. I don't think simple renders and short description really explain the scheme enough.

    • truthnbeauty

      Bravo! This intelligent response is an understatement! This is a design forum – not merely a publicity venue.

    • Absolutely spot-on! There is not enough information here, especially in regards the most important aspect of the new building, its relationship to the existing site. It’s a shame that our comments and discussion about this project have to focus on such petty issues when there is such a great opportunity here to have a debate about the role of new construction in the preservation of historical monuments.

  • Marc Archambault

    Toothpicks holding up sheet metal doesn't exactly evoke the sublime power of a henge, but maybe that's the design brief, to show how far we've fallen.

  • You can’t just say you are grassing over the road and the car park. The A344 is a busy road that runs very close to the site. Rerouting it would cause major and lengthy disruption and will no doubt affect the beauty of the henge for quite sometime.

    So where will the road go, where is the car park (which we ca see in the distance of slide 3)

    Why can’t we see a render with the henge and the centre? Is it because they clash so hideously?

    And what about a site plan. These renders mean nothing without context. At present they just show a shed in a field. They could be anywhere.

  • Anonymous

    What a pity that English Heritage are so short sighted that they actually believe this is a fantatsic design solution. How does a single element of that design aesthetic tie to the site apart from it being low-rise. "digital" style perforations and spindly supports are pretty much the exact opposite of the site / stones. It is not often I get worked up by design like this, but this is probably the most disappointing new-build feature scheme I have ever seen. I would love to hear the BS that would explain the design. Bottom line is visually it sucks. In every respect.

    Equally was there not a single British firm who could have delivered this job? DCM are Australians! Yes they have a UK office, but what a joke when the country that is supposed to lead the world in design has to resort to asking the ozzies.

    This is a great example of design disasters and will be veiwed as such in years to come. If I was the designer (and I am a designer) I would be ashamed to put my name to this dogs dinner of a scheme.

    So what its low key. I could suggest a million alternatives that were still low key but connected and responded to the context a million times better.

    • Bruno de Paris

      I totally agree with the first part of the comment.

      The second instead is at least questionable: “the country that is supposed to lead the world in design”. 1) Says who? 2) Why make it a kind of nationalistic issue? Haven’t you noticed that the world is a whole and that borders are just administrative agreements? What is “British”? Why would you not follow your logic to its end and reduce the competition to architects who are at least 50th proven Stonehenge generation, or 60th, [you tell the number] and still live there?

      Considering that an Australian is possibly closer to the “original” “British” identity than modern UK residents…

  • Wow I thought perforated steel plating was invented to get trucks out of the muck in WW2. This is one of those first year architecture school ideas which does not get you into your second. This is no building, it is a bus stop. And a bad one at that. A Shuttle. A bloody shuttle. Stonehenge is being pyramidized. A disgrace.

  • How this building relates to Stonehenge — except not at all — I have no clue. And that’s pretty disappointing.

    On its own, the building is OK, at best. Next to Stonehenge, it makes absolutely no sense.

  • andrew

    These architects should be struck off for failing the core competencies of being an architect and bringing the industry into disrepute. This is an outrageous display of self gratification at the cost of all others who have, are and will be.

  • Phil

    Why haven’t they built the original design they did, which was far more sympathetic and powerful!

  • Bruno de Paris

    "Toothpicks holding up sheet metal" (Marc's comment), brilliant definition. Hope there is a first-aid service, large enough to receive all the people smashing their face against the "common sense-less" toothpicks forest.

    Does anyone have a good contact at English Heritage to send them this feed?

  • Without reading the brief nor the design intent, most opinions here are probably a little harsh. But this building does nothing to ignite passion nor evoke a sense of wonder the same way the magnificient Stonehenge does! I would think a monument in a form of a sculptural architecture was more fitting.

  • Stonehenge gets £27m facelift to end 'national embarrassment'

    From the article:

    "Contractor VINCI Construction UK has taken possession of the site at Airman's Corner, 1.5 miles west of the stones, to start work on the new exhibition and visitor building. In September, the Highways Agency will begin preliminary work that will lead to the closure of the A344 at Stonehenge.

    Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage, said: "A new dawn at Stonehenge is truly upon us. Though the stones themselves have never failed to awe visitors, their setting has been a national embarrassment and disgrace.

    "After nearly 30 years English Heritage finally has a scheme that will transform the setting of the stones and our visitors' experience of them.

    "The restoration of the landscape together with a major new exhibition on site will finally give our greatest and most famous monument the treatment it deserves.""

  • steve

    Only one post seems to be aware that this is the last of 'a string of designs' (as the article itself clearly states).. Along with the author of that one post, I happen to think the original design was a potent and worthy winner of the original competition.

    DCM have always attracted attention because their designs were well founded, and sometimes sublimely sensitive to grand landscapes. On the face of it these visuals don't fit well with their body of work.

    I have no idea how the original evolved into the current scheme, but I'd like to know. It would be really good if Dezeen ran an article tracing that 'string of designs', with appropriate supporting materials.

  • Bill

    I think that people are are being a little unfair to this design. I can only imagine that calls for a greater sensitivity to the site must be based on perceived perception that the monument sits in a pristine landscape; instead the monument site itself is surrounded entirely by 8-10 ft perimeter fence and lies directly adjacent to the busy A344 – hardly reverent, with the proposed visitor centre sited almost two miles away at the intersection of two big roads. In this way the visitor centre and the monument already function entirely as autonomous objects.

    Further, if one takes the monument out of the equation, then the only defining aspects of the landscape are the horizontality of the plain, punctuated frequently by small clusters of trees, both these aspects are clearly reflected in the design. The use of glass throughout would also help to diminish the buildings presence on the site. This project doesn’t feel like it is any way trying to compete with stone henge on any phenomenological level, and for me thats a good thing. Let the monument create the atmosphere, this building only needs to play a supporting role.

  • Isa

    Definitely has a makeshift feel about it in opposition to the site itself. The thin support members look like real trip and collision hazards with visitors and the huge perforations right over everybody’s path would not bode too well on a rainy day. People will duck out of the way only to get clobbered by a beam. I guess that it would not be too long before this one is replaced also.

  • zeeman

    Yeah, their original was really good, totally different to this. As for the racist chest thumping of anonymous above, come to Australia, we are currently awash with British firms doing local work. All international now.

  • This is yet another architectural 'con' render. Where are the coaches (as opposed to a few cars parked in a field)? Where are the shops and toilets? Where are the signs in many languages? Where is the torrential rain and howling winds? Where are the Wagamama and Costa Coffee signs? Where is the Henge? This kind of 'visitor centre' is ruining England and I don't blame the architects but the commissioners, who have obviously been fooled by another 'glam' set of illustrations. If the majority of the British public knew this was happening, there would be riots! You want positive design thinking? Well… it does look rather flimsy:)

  • arne

    I’m afraid the coach parking is outside the rendered area, but it’s there. The toilets are in the box on the right (in the last image) and the giftshop/cafe is on the left. Signs in different languages aren’t legible in the renders and probably weren’t the main focus, and the new visitor centre is located further away from the stones than the current one so you can’t see the henge in the renders either. This is done out of respect of the site.

    Hope this clears things up for you.

    • Thank you for your explanation, but this only illustrates my point of calling the visualisation a ‘con’. How can people decide on a building if real life elements are missing?

      The coach park is probably huge and unsightly, potentially the biggest blight on the landscape, how can people form an opinion if these things are left out? Signs may not be the main focus for selling the concept but they will hit you in the eye on your first visit, good or bad?

      I do not blame the architects but the commissioners. To get a balanced view of the proposal, all should be included in any visualisation. I only added the rain and wind element, as looking at the visualisation the canopy and uprights look prone to decay and rust. Maybe this is intended, and probably the best way for the building to blend into the surroundings.

  • ampere

    What is the size of this project? How many sqm of building area and of site area?