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Cullinan could make Stonehenge comeback

Ted Cullinan could make a dramatic return to the Stonehenge visitor-centre project – 15 years after he was first selected to design a facility there.

English Heritage (EH) has confirmed it is looking at resuscitating previous visitor-centre proposals following the recent demise of Denton Corker Marshall’s (DCM) £67 million scheme (AJ 13.12.07).

A spokeswoman for EH told the AJ: ‘We are looking at all the old schemes and a [Cullinan] scheme is a possibility.

She added: ‘We have to move fast and we are looking at what we already have.’

The move could herald a remarkable comeback for Cullinan. The practice is responsible for almost all the ‘old schemes’ and, after winning the original design competition back in 1993, investigated different plots around the World Heritage site.

The firm was eventually ditched in 2000, despite being selected as part of a preferred PFI developer team, when incoming EH chief Neil Cossons announced he had wanted to rethink the procurement process.

Yet Cullinan, who won the RIBA Gold Medal last year, had never given up hope of returning to the project.

Robin Nicholson, practice director at Edward Cullinan Architects, said: ‘As soon as the other scheme (DCM) began to move into the sand we wrote to EH saying to them that there was no doubt the Larkhill is the best site – whoever does it.

‘The site is 1km north of the stones and the great thing is that you can see Stonehenge from the roof of the building but you can’t see the building from the stones.

‘There have been many plans over the years but there was a new energy when we started on the competition in 1993. We beat people like Future Systems, and of the subsequent competitions we won three out of four.

‘But when Cossons came in he decided to do it all differently.’

EH wants the centre to be up and running by 2012 to cater for the expected invasion of tourists arriving on the back of the London Olympics. EH will have ‘critical meetings in late January and February’ with stakeholders and representatives from UNESCO.

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