WORK on a ‘visionary’ First Light Pavilion has started at the Jodrell Bank Observatory.

The project is set to be completed in 2021, and will transform the visitor experience at the observatory, bringing radio astronomy principles and the stories of Jodrell Bank’s pioneering scientists to life.

The Pavilion has been designed to celebrate the site’s heritage and beginnings of radio astronomy, and takes the form of a grass-covered dome, integrated into the landscape.

Its circular shape responds to the arboretum and references the shape and exact size of the 76.2-metre diameter dish of the Lovell Telescope.

In addition to taking inspiration from the site, Hassell, which is creating the pavilion, was influenced by sculptures, structures and natural landforms from around the world, ranging from ancient monuments such as Newgrange in Ireland to the renowned circular Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo.

The Pavilion will be arranged over a single storey, contained within a concrete shell, which when exposed on the Pavilion interior will offer a sweeping plane of concrete, curving around the exhibition and auditorium core.

The entrance will be a dramatic curved concrete screen, with its axis due south to reflect the arc of the sun. Two screen walls guide visitors to the entrance.

A single glass slot is cut out of the south axis, illuminating a meridian line cast onto the floor.

At the heart of the building will be the exhibition and the auditorium, encased within a cylindrical ‘drum’ in the centre of the mound.

Visitors will circulate clockwise through interactive displays which will tell the story of the site, the history of radio astronomy and modern astrophysics, the dawn of the Space Age and creation of the Lovell Telescope.

The exhibition re-uses sections of the original 1957 observation dish from the Lovell Telescope to form the backdrop and projection surfaces.

The 150-seat capacity auditorium ‘pod’ will feature a screen that follows the shape of the drum shell and curves over the seats.

The multi-media room will house special exhibitions and cater for night-sky projections, as well as educational lectures and live links to other science facilities.

Exiting the drum will give way to a café and circular courtyard, cut into the mound so that its orientation aligns to the First Light’s tracking of Russia’s Sputnik at 102° from Azimuth.

Hassell principal, Julian Gitsham, said: “The completion of the Pavilion will mark a new era for Jodrell Bank.

READ>> Alison is The People's Choice for Holmes Chapel hero

“It will introduce new generations to the rich history of the site and the wonders of radio astronomy.”

Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre at the University of Manchester said: “We are delighted construction work is about to begin on our visionary new First Light Pavilion.

READ>> Paws4Thought impresses competition judges

“The new gallery will allow us to tell the story of Jodrell Bank in a way that is in keeping with our status as the UK’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site.”