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Magna Millennium project shows Wilkinson's steel

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Chris Wilkinson Architects has revealed its designs to transform the derelict Templeborough steelworks in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, into the £37 million Magna Millennium visitor centre.

The scheme - controversially designed to stage D by Clash Associates in a successful bid for £18.6 million Millennium Commission money before the practice was dropped (aj 7.5.98) - has been developed by Wilkinson to make full use of the two 350m-long bays.

The practice intends the centre to portray the story of steel production on the site of the longest melting shop of its type in Europe. Four themed pavilions will explore the elements of earth, air, fire and water as the basic components of the process, connected horizontally by walkways and bridges and vertically with the reused transformer building. An old scrap bay and concast delivery bay on the north side of the building will be demolished, but numerous artefacts from the original steel-making process will remain.

Visitors will approach Magna via a new access road alongside the River Don to an entrance formed in enormous nine-storey-high former concaster aisles. Parking will be surrounded by a 'skeleton' of retained steel uprights of crane-rail supports in the scrap bay area, which will be reused as lighting support gantries. A new north elevation will be clad in metal and the steelwork of the existing crane-rails and hoppers will be exposed.

Outside, next to the River Don, the developer of the project, the Magna Trust, has identified the potential for a future 120-bed hotel, service areas and car parking.

The Magna site also contains the remains of a Roman fort and settlement which will be unaffected by the works and may end up being a visitor attraction in their own right.

Magna - complete with a 'Centre of Excellence', restaurant, cafe and shop - will open in 2001 with a 'soft opening' at the end of 2000. Wilkinson's office is working with attraction designer Event Communications, structural engineer Bingham Cottrell, and building and environmental services engineer Buro Happold.

In addition to the confirmed 18.6 million grant from the Millennium Commission - Magna is one of only 28 projects in the country to attract more than £15 million - further grants are expected to be confirmed shortly from English Partnerships and the European Regional Development Fund. Further cash will come from land sales, sponsorship and private-sector contributions.

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