NEW OPENING: Jodrell Bank's £21.5m Pioneering First Light Pavilion

After years of planning, the architecturally stunning First Light Pavilion is finally open…

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 5 July 2022

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June has seen the long-awaited opening of Jodrell Bank’s First Light Pavilion, a  striking new building housing a permanent exhibition on the pioneering story of Jodrell Bank, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with an immersive planetarium, temporary exhibitions gallery, and café.

This major addition to the award-winning attraction will open up with stories of Jodrell Bank’s pioneering scientists in a new permanent exhibition, including their ground-breaking feats of science and engineering at the site. You can also explore the depths of space in an immersive planetarium experience, or discover new ideas in their temporary exhibition space.

The striking building, designed by Hassell, takes the form of a grass-topped 76m diameter dome which cleverly mirrors the shape and scale of the landmark Lovell Telescope.

By maintaining an age-old tradition of building structures that express our relationship to the skies above us, the building also makes reference to ancient sites such as Stonehenge and Newgrange, by aligning with the Sun via a meridian line cut through the dome’s entranceway.

Facing due south, a slim vertical window right in the centre of the building invites the sun to shine through a finger of light that moves across the entrance foyer as the day goes on, acting as a giant sundial.

Created by leading exhibition designers Casson Mann, the First Light Exhibition will bring to life the Jodrell Bank story. Audiences will be able to see fascinating archive materials brought together for the first time including audio, film, diaries, letters, plans and photographs, in innovative digital displays and projections.

The exhibition fabric is made from the skin of the Lovell Telescope, bringing visitors into direct contact with the authentic metal dish which has ‘listened’ to the heavens and been touched by cosmic rays and ‘space dust.’

All visitors will also be able to experience a vivid Dome Show in the custom-built state-of-the-art auditorium, complete with a curved projection screen and an impressive 9 digital projectors – creating an immersive audio-visual experience, with a specially commissioned short film about the story of Jodrell Bank itself.

The opening of the First Light Pavilion has firmly established the Jodrell Bank site, which is part of The University of Manchester, as a major UK cultural destination. The site already boasts a uniquely multi-dimensional status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, national visitor attraction, cultural icon, and globally significant scientific research facility.

Eilish McGuinness, CEO of The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “Jodrell Bank is truly a unique heritage site, of national and international importance, with an inspirational story of Britain’s role as a leader in the science of the exploration of the universe, set in a landscape of great beauty and with iconic heritage at every turn.

“The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £12.5 million to the First Light Project so that the site’s powerful human stories of curiosity, exploration and discovery could be shared with the public. The stunning new building, its exciting exhibition, and an incredibly diverse and inclusive engagement programme, will all have a fantastic impact, delighting and inspiring every visitor, including the next generation of scientists following in the footsteps of Sir Bernard Lovell.”


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