Wilkinson Eyre Win Stirling Prize
The winner beat six other entries including the Eden Project in Cornwall designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and Michael Hopkins' Portcullis House and Westminster Underground Station.
Refilling the Historic Hull
The north of England was once known as a region of heavy industries coal mining, shipbuilding, and iron and steel manufacturing. These industries no longer prevail, with the majority of mines closing, shipbuilding losing its world dominance, and iron and steel mills still operating but a pale shadow of their former selves.
As a reminder of this part of Britain's heritage, a number of museums have been set up throughout the country to tell the tale of their various industrial pasts. The Magna Centre, however, has a twist. It uses the framework of its previous life to provide a window to the future.
In 1998, Rotherham City Council in Yorkshire launched the project to resurrect the derelict building, the Templeborough Works, which operated from 1917 until 1993. Originally the council planned to establish a steel heritage center. But this idea could not be funded, so the concept of a science adventure theme park, aimed primarily at children, was developed as an alternative, with an independent educational charity at the helm.
The £37.2 million conversion opened in April 2001. According to the architects, "The hands-on science adventure center is organized around the Aristotelian elements earth, air, fire and water." These are the basic components of the steel-making process.
The ancillary buildings around the huge main steelworks' sheds were demolished, which included the scrap and continuous-casting (concast) delivery bays on the north side of the complex. The metal skin of the sheds was then repaired and painted black to unify the building and to provide what could be described as a minimalist industrial landscape. Steelworks never looked so tidy!
From iron ore to awe-inspiring, the exterior, although grand in itself, does not prepare the visitor for the interior, which is made up of two huge parallel bays. At 135 feet (41 meters) wide and 1100 feet (350 meters) long, this vast interior takes your breath away.
The Four Pavilions
Four new partitions house the exhibits and provide separate environmentally controlled conditions. The architects explain: "The form, location, and construction of these pavilions relate to the respective elements and, together with the artifacts retained from the steel-making processes, combine to make a new composition." The massive stanchions that had supported the crane gantry rails in the past now support the new steel-framed structures.
The Air Pavilion is clad in cushions of ethyltetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a kind of fluoropolymer. They are clipped to aluminum extrusions held in position with a cable net tension structure, which gives the impression that it is floating. The pavilion glows with a blue hue and gently drifts with rolling clouds.
As an artificially created sound of the wind increases, the speed, shape, and color of projected clouds and sky change. Then, four times an hour, the noise reaches a climax with a thunder storm, after which the calm returns, and the crescendo begins again.
The Water Pavilion is clad in stainless steel sheeting that was shaped into curves to follow the spiral form. One enters the neon-outlined, blue-haloed pavilion from below a rippling steel structure equipped with blue lights that randomly cast rippled reflections around the space.
At the entrance to the Fire Pavilion area, a series of broken screens surrounds the visitor with fire imagery. A tornado forms the focal point of the interactive space. The vertical surfaces and saturated red floor flicker with a fiery red glow. The Fire Pavilion is suspended across the two main aisles with a three-dimensional lattice floor structure.
The Earth Pavilion is reached by a bridge over a flickering mist. The bare concrete entrance hall is starkly lit with bare light. Cool daylight grazes the main space contrasting with an amber light on the steel-finished walls. The pavilion is supported by existing columns at the basement level; its roof is clad in pre-rusted steel sheeting supported by metal decking.
Each themed pavilion area is connected laterally by walkways and bridges, and vertically via the refurbished transformer building. Along the way are artifacts from the building's past retained as evocative sculptures. Red beacon lights punctuate the facades and gantry structures, while some of the artifacts are washed in a contrasting blue.
The integration of architecture and lighting design provides an exhilarating experience, which plays on all the senses and emotions.