Since this building is only down the road and has been nominated for the 2013 RIBA Stirling prize, I thought it was worth a visit. Unfortunately I arrived pre-disposed to not like it! Interior photographs I had seen on the internet looked bleak and un-inviting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the real thing!
The first thing I noticed is how un-imposing the building is, I think it sits very well in the landscape, not shouting for attention, but tucked quietly underneath a fold in the landscape. This ‘fold’ was the key concept behind Heneghan-Pengs design for the centre. One piece of land folds up, to allow the centre to sit beneath it, and a second portion folds down to allow for the car-park to nestle low and remain relatively unseen. The result is a very simple shape in plan form, and the centre is actually only one long room. It’s certainly nothing complicated or flashy.
The result of such a simple, one storey building is that it doesn’t have much ‘wow’ factor, it just seems to work well, its pleasant and nice, but not amazing.
The polished basalt mullions mimic the Giants Causeway but thankfully in not a predictable hexagon shaped manner! They remain sleek and each one is individual and unique, just like the Causeways own pillars.
The most successful feature I think is the roof. Because the centre sits underneath the folded landscape, you are able to walk along its roof on the grass and you could easily be forgiven for forgetting that there’s a building underneath you! It goes beyond being a simple ‘green’ roof, instead it’s actually part of the hill. From this vantage point the views across Portrush display themselves completely un-interrupted.
The interior is a simple geometric room with slight variations in levels. Honestly I found it under-whelming, I didn’t really find anything wrong with it, but it wasn’t spectacular either! Maybe this is no bad thing since the visitor centre isn’t meant to be the main attraction, It’s simplicity helps to keep all eyes on the Causeway itself.
All in all I do like this building, especially it’s exterior, however I think it just lacks a certain something to make it amazing and inspirational. Despite this, it was un-believably busy the weekend I visited, regardless of the wind and rain, and it served it’s purpose well!
- Image taken from http://www.fourth-street.com