The National Trust Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre has been named one of the UK’s most iconic constructions of the 21st century by British Airways ‘High Life’ magazine and The Independent.
The publications asked readers to nominate contemporary feats of architecture that symbolise the nation’s built heritage. An expert panel of judges sifted through thousands of votes before coming up with a long list of 40 landmarks which was then whittled down to the final 21.
The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre was the only Northern Ireland building to make the cut, with The Eden Project, Cornwall, the Angel of the North, Gateshead and Coventry Cathedral placed first, second and third respectively on the list of landmarks.
‘I’m a fan,’ said Stephen Hodder, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and one of the judging panel. ‘It’s a remarkable intervention in the landscape. It uses the same composition – basalt – as the causeway. It’s just of its place. It could be nowhere else.’
Imagined as the gateway to the stones, everything about the Visitor Centre harks back to the 60-million-year-old phenomenon that is the causeway stones. Hunkered into the landscape, the building is barely perceivable until within close range. In part underground, the building gives the impression of emerging from within the earth; the wind skirts over and around it, while the grass roof is nourished by frequent rain.
Once inside the building, its ingenuity is further revealed. Vast and cavernous, the internal space can be roughly divided into three zones: eating, shopping and exhibition, where visitors discover the science and stories surrounding the Giant’s Causeway.
‘We’re delighted to be selected as one of the “21 landmarks that define Britain in the 21st century’, said National Trust Giant’s Causeway Site Manager, Alastair Walker. ‘Our modern Visitor Centre compliments the ancient rock formations of Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site which, of course, is the main attraction. The services and facilities offered by the Visitor Centre encourage people to connect with the causeway in a way that is structured, and therefore comfortable and enjoyable.’
The building has also been nominated for the prestigious Stirling Prize and has been awarded the Skal and BREEM Awards, both of which recognise success in sustainability in design.