The First Light Pavilion is a £21.5m development supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. It follows Jodrell Bank Observatory’s recent recognition as a site of Outstanding Universal Value when it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2019. The First Light Pavilion was created to tell the inspirational stories of Jodrell Bank’s world-leading contribution to science, heritage and culture.
The architecturally remarkable building was designed by Hassell Studios and engineered by Atelier One with the executive architects of JM Architect’s overlooking the entire project and Kier Construction building the large concrete dome.
I was commissioned to photograph / capture its stunning architecture and clever design within its location of the Jodrell Bank Observatory centre. I will be sharing some of the photography over the next week.
The idea was to build a discreet form that would blend into the landscape. The final unique structure is a 76m diameter concrete dome which mirrors the shape and scale of the dish of the Lovell Telescope. The building is partially buried beneath earth and grass, leaving a stunning curved entrance façade with its axis orientated due south to reflect the arc of the sun. Two separate screen walls guide visitors to the entrance in which a single glass slot is cut, lighting a meridian line cast on to the floor linking the structure to the skies above.
The design was to leave the exposed concrete visible inside the building, as well as on the front façade whilst also maintaining a high level of insulation. Armourcoat supplied an insulated render that includes graphite enabling it to reflect 20% more radiant heat than standard EPS. This optimises the thermal performance of the building and has the added dimension of a decorative polished finish to the façade.
The entrance of the First Light Pavilion is approached along a simple path between two parallel curved concrete walls suggestive of a new moon. Inside, visitors can immerse themselves in a new permanent exhibition that was created by Casson Mann and tells the inspirational story of Jodrell Bank’s pioneering scientists and engineers.
There is a 150-seat capacity auditorium ‘pod’ featuring a screen that follows the shape of the drum shell and curves over the seats. A multimedia room houses special exhibitions and caters for night-sky projections, educational lectures and live links to other science facilities.
From this, visitors can exit to a café and circular courtyard, cut into the mound so that its orientation aligns to First Light’s tracking of Sputnik at 102 degrees from Azimuth.
The First Light Pavilion opened its doors to the public in June 2022