Giant project up for a ‘Giant’ prize

The new Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre at Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site has been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize, one of the most coveted awards for architectural excellence.

The £18.5 million centre, designed by Heneghan Peng architects based in Dublin opened in July 2012 and is now the gateway to the 40,000 iconic basalt stones.
The centre, which took two years to build, has also been designed to fit seamlessly within the landscape without impacting the view of the coastline from the stones.

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Amend the Planning Bill – news from Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has stunning special places: the cliffs and beaches of the North Coast, Fermanagh’s lakelands, the Mountains of Mourne, the Sperrins, cities like Belfast and Derry with their fine architecture and the country’s only World Heritage Site – the Giant’s Causeway.

Such places could be under threat from a Planning Bill which is currently going through the Northern Ireland Assembly. Together with other a range of organisations, we are supporting the ‘Amend the Bill’ campaign to call for politicians to make changes to protect some of the country’s most special places for generations to come; and to deliver a better planning system for everyone.

Amend the bill header

So far more than 4800 messages of support have been sent to politicians across Northern Ireland.

Heather Thompson, National Trust director for Northern Ireland said: “The Planning Bill contains two clauses which focus on economic development which could result in planning applications which aren’t in the best interests of communities and the environment, being approved. We should all welcome the introduction of a more effective system of planning. However we need one that ensures a fair and balanced approach to economic, environmental and social issues, and supports economic development which takes all three into account.

“The Bill also presents an ideal opportunity to bring in protection for World Heritage Sites and their settings in Northern Ireland, which includes the Giant’s Causeway and the countryside immediately around it.

“With the Bill currently in front of the Northern Assembly, it is vital that people speak up now in order to protect our special places for everyone that enjoys them today as well as future generations.”

The Planning Bill reaches an important milestone when it goes to Consideration Stage on 24 June 2013. At this point it is debated on the floor of the NI Assembly.

You can join the discussion on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AmendTheBill and follow us on twitter at @AmendTheBill. There is also a campaign blog with more detailed information at http://www.amendthebill.wordpress.com

Residents from outside of Northern Ireland can also register their support by emailing info@amendthebill.org

An online tool has been set up for NI residents at http://www.amendthebill.org.uk (a NI postcode is needed to use this tool)

Prime Minister visits new Giant’s Causeway visitor centre

Prime Minister David Cameron and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, today visited Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway, and its new state-of-the-art visitor centre which opened to the public last month. 

The Prime Minister’s visit is part of a tour of the UK to mark the Olympic celebrations and to show how he wants the whole country to seize this opportunity to showcase everything the UK has to offer.

The Giant’s Causeway featured as part of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics with a local children’s choir singing on the stones which was beamed to more than one billion people all around the world. 

The Olympic torch also visited the Giant’s Causeway as part of the torch relay.

The new visitor centre, designed by Dublin architects heneghan peng, has been sympathetically and sustainably designed to sit seamlessly within the landscape.  

It features an illuminating exhibition showcasing the stories and the science behind the Giant’s Causeway.

The Prime Minister said: “We are at the start of a momentous few weeks for the United Kingdom, weeks that will see awe-inspiring sporting performances, provide some incredible memories and see history in the making.

“So now, with the eyes of the world upon us, I want to see us make the very most of hosting these Games and to make sure we seize every single opportunity to showcase the whole country.

“The iconic and breathtaking Giant’s Causeway draws visitors from across the globe and is an excellent example of the many reasons to visit Northern Ireland.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, said: “We welcome the Prime Minister here to Northern Ireland and the Giant’s Causeway today.  Whether it’s spectacular sport and new heroes inspiring young people to get active.  Whether its business demonstrating their capabilities and building new contacts and winning new opportunities to invest.  Or the benefits to tourism of showing off our stunning country rich in history and culture, we want Northern Ireland to benefit with the whole country from the legacy of hosting London 2012.”

Heather Thompson, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Prime Minister and Secretary of State to Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and to show them around our sustainably designed visitor centre – the new gateway to this iconic site.    

“It was extremely important for us to create visitor facilities worthy of this unique and iconic visitor attraction and to use the latest sustainable materials and building technologies wherever possible.

Since opening last month we have already welcomed an incredible 85,000 visitors to the Causeway, the highest number of monthly visitors ever recorded at any of the Trust’s special places.

“Being able to cater for such large numbers of visitors whilst still protecting and conserving such a unique and precious site was vital. 

“The extra visitors we can now look after will provide a major boost to the regional economy with the site supporting 150 team members which includes volunteers.”

The roof of the building is planted with local grasses grown from seed collected from the surrounding area so that the centre integrates with the landscape and offers a haven for local wildlife.  It also offers visitors a fantastic panoramic view of the coastline.

Trails and pathways throughout the World Heritage setting have also been upgraded to offer improved access and views of the spectacular scenery.

New interactive displays and activities inside the visitor centre include an animation of the story of legendary giants Finn McCool and Benandonner and visitors can also discover the science behind how the site was formed 60 million years ago and read the engaging stories of local people connected to the site.

The £18.5 million investment was made possible with support from £9.25 million from Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment of which £6.125 million has been provided by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, and £3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with £6.25 million from National Trust funds.

For further information, opening times and ticket prices visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giantscauseway.

 

New Northern Ireland centre fit for a giant of world heritage

A giant transformation awaits visitors to Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site with today’s opening of a new state-of-the-art visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway.

With panoramic rooftop views of the coastline available for the first time, the award-winning building is part of an £18.5 million investment - financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the National Trust [1] – to offer a new gateway to this iconic site.

The new visitor centre was designed by Dublin based architects heneghan peng.

Inspired by the site’s 40,000 hexagonal basalt stones [2] and the stories of legendary giants Finn McCool and Benandonner [3], the main feature of the centre is its 186 basalt columns made from locally quarried stone.

The centre has also been designed to sit seamlessly within the landscape without impacting the view from the stones.

Already achieving the BREEAM ‘excellent’ standard [4], the centre has been built using the latest thinking in sustainable design and materials.

It is also jammed full of the latest technologies to enhance visitors’ enjoyment of this very special place.

The roof of the building is planted with local grasses grown from seed collected from the surrounding area so that the centre integrates with the landscape and offers a haven for local wildlife.

Trails and pathways throughout the site have also been upgraded to offer improved access and views of the spectacular scenery.

Exhibitions, audio guides, trails and cliff top walks, are all part of the project to showcase the stories and science of the remarkable basalt columns to people of all ages.

New interactive displays and activities inside the visitor centre include an animation of the legend of Finn McCool and an innovative hand-held audio guide.

Visitors can also discover the science behind how the site was created and read the engaging stories of local people connected to the site.

John McKay, aged 96, worked as a ‘flag’ boy on the tram that used to bring visitors to Giant’s Causeway.

He said:  “I have lived all my life only a stone’s throw away from the Giant’s Causeway – you could say it has always been in my blood.

“There is something very special about this place that just has a hold over you.

“I am honoured and privileged to have my story told at the new centre and to see my great grandson dressed as I was as a flag boy will be a cherished memory.”

Heather Thompson, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland, said: “It was extremely important for us to create visitor facilities worthy of this unique, legendary visitor attraction.

“As well as looking the part, we wanted to ensure the building was sustainably built using the latest technologies wherever possible.

“Currently 600,000 people visit the stones each year, and the new centre will enable us to increase capacity by 30 per cent.

“This will not only provide a major boost to the regional economy, but we will now employ 150 local people and 30 volunteers.

“This is a significant milestone for the National Trust in Northern Ireland and is the culmination of years of working in partnership with stakeholders in the community, the business sector, the government and political arenas.”

The £18.5 million project has taken two years to complete.

Moya Moss-Bowpitt has volunteered as a Ranger at the Causeway for the past two years.

She said: “The new visitor centre and experience is an exciting and vibrant development for the Giant’s Causeway.  Volunteering here means being part of a team committed to promoting this World Heritage Site and I am very proud to be part of it.”

The visitor centre opens from 1pm on Tuesday 3 July when the new extended summer opening hours also start from 9am – 9pm.

Ticket admission includes access to the visitor centre, a hand-held pocket audio guide, orientation leaflets and car parking.

For further information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giantscauseway.

 

Notes to editors:

[1] The breakdown of how the project has been financed is as follows: £6.125 million from ERDF, £3.125 from NITB, £3 million from HLF and £6.25 million from the National Trust.

 

[2] The basalt columns emerged from the sea-bed following intense volcanic and geological activity 60 million years ago.

 

[3] According to legend, the Causeway stones used to link Scotland – home of Benandonner – to Finn McCool’s home at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.  Benandonner is said to have ripped up the basalt columns, throwing them behind him, as he fled from seeing Finn’s ‘baby’ (Finn in disguise), in his rush to get back to his Scottish home.  He thought after seeing Finn’s ‘baby’ that he was a much bigger giant then himself, and feared for his life.  He was therefore determined to destroy the link between the two countries.

 

Scholars argue about whether or not Finn McCool was a real person, but some believe he was a nobleman who lived in the AD 200s and died in 283.

 

[4] BREEAM is the world’s leading design and assessment method for sustainable building.  The building has a huge ground-source heat system and earth pipe cooling system.  The concrete in the building was made from 70 per cent recycled product, and as many materials as possible have been sourced locally.