Explore astronomy at Jodrell Bank’s First Light Pavilion in Cheshire
Jodrell Bank observatory reveals the First Light Pavilion in England’s Cheshire, courtesy of architecture studio Hassell
Sat at the heart of a Unesco World Heritage Site, Cheshire’s Jodrell Bank in England, the First Light Pavilion is quietly nestled in the green landscape’s rolling hills. The site, by the small town of Macclesfield, is home to an observatory first established in 1945 by radio astronomer Bernard Lovell, and it includes the impressive Lovell Telescope. Now, this new piece of pavilion architecture, designed by Hassell, has been added to the popular tourist destination, as a centre that welcomes visitors who want to find out more about astronomy, science and technology at Jodrell Bank and beyond.
The pavilion ‘aims to open up the inspirational history of Jodrell Bank by engaging visitors with the fantastic stories of its pioneering scientists and their groundbreaking feats of science and engineering’, offers a Jodrell Bank statement. At the same time, its architecture, defined by gentle concrete curves, was conceived to be subtle and respond to its leafy context and the nearby, familiar forms of the Lovell Telescope and astronomy equipment in general.
The First Light Pavilion’s 76m-diameter dome is topped by grass, ensuring it commands a clear, yet discreet presence in the Jodrell Bank campus. Inside, exhibition designer Casson Mann composed a display that tells the story of the site and the science ‘of the exploration of the universe using radio waves instead of visible light’. Within the exhibits, interactive projected animations by digital media studio Squint/Opera, in partnership with exhibition builder Realm and software developer ISO, promise an informative and engaging visit for guests.
‘That transformational development in this quiet corner of Cheshire completely opened up humanity’s understanding of the universe and allowed us to discover previously undreamt of things such as pulsars, quasars, and even the fading glow of the Big Bang,’ says professor Tim O’Brien, associate director at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. Jodrell Bank is host to the world’s oldest existing radio astronomy observatory, and the First Light Pavilion visitor centre celebrates this through its gentle presence and contextual nature. §