In Depth

Stonehenge's new £27m visitor centre is 'well judged' success

Revamp has taken three decades, but English Heritage's biggest project avoids the pitfalls of 'mass tourism'

A NEW £27m visitor centre at Stonehenge that opens to the public tomorrow is "well judged" and avoids the pitfalls of mass tourism, The Guardian says. 

The centre, which is home to more than 250 prehistoric objects - many of them previously unseen - is located about 2km from the ancient stone ring. Visitors will be transported from the centre to Stonehenge by shuttle buses. 

As part of the transformation - which has been in the planning for three decades - the decommissioned A344 has been grassed over and the old 1960s visitor centre has been closed.

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2013 AFP

The Guardian's Rowan Moore says the three decades it has taken to revitalise the site is "embarrassing", but the finished project "does what it is supposed to do". 

The fact that the new visitor centre is at some distance from the stones means that the "paraphernalia of visiting" is hidden, he writes. Architects Denton Corker Marshall, an Australian practice with an office in London, have made "intelligent choices" and the main building - "an undulating parasol of a roof propped on skinny steel sticks" - is pleasingly modern.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, described the completion of the organisation's largest single project as the "end of an incredibly long journey".

Stonehenge is almost certainly the most famous ancient monument in the world and up until now it hasn't really had adequate visitor facilities," Thurley told the BBC. "There's been no exhibition, no opportunities for people to even have a cup of tea. This is a radical change for the million people a year who come to Stonehenge."

Thurley added that the new facilities would allow visitors to see the stones without being distracted by the "clutter and rubbish" that had built up around them since the 1960s.

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2013 Getty Images

Stonehenge, built between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, is thought to have been used for a variety of religious ceremonies, the BBC says. In 1922, about 38,000 people visited the stones each year, but the number has swollen to almost a million.

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