Renzo Piano reveals plans for 'prehistoric' attraction
Shard architect Renzo Piano’s practice is working up plans for a prehistoric-themed visitor attraction in a Dorset quarry
The Jurassica attraction, earmarked for a former limestone quarry on the Isle of Portland, is the brainchild of science writer Michael Hanlon and aims to provide a new education and tourist focus for the Jurassic Coast.
Piano’s early-stage designs for the scheme involve a lightweight cable structure anchored to the quarry walls to support a transparent glass roof that will create a protected environment for visitors to view and experience the existing rock strata alongside a recreated Jurassic landscape.
The project is expected to include a number of exhibition spaces that - according to Hanlon - will allow visitors to ‘travel back in time down a double-helix spiral walkway, look out onto a Jurassic beach, and see dinosaurs swimming in an aquarium’.
Earlier this month the project was awarded £300,000 in development funding by the government, which will be overseeen by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.
Renzo Piano Building Workshop associate Jack Carter, who is leading on the project, said that the park was designed to be set down into the quarry, and would be only partially visible from ground level.
‘The contrast between the solid rock of the quarry and the amazingly lightweight cable-tension structure is really interesting to us,’ he said.
‘The site is technically a brownfield one, but it remains very sensitive being next to the coastline, which has Unesco World Heritage status.’
The practice is currently working with Arup on the project, as well as for Heritage Lottery Fund support.
Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership’s development timeline for the project envisages a period of ‘intensive fundraising’ for the scheme followed by completion of detailled design work in 2016, the start of construction in 2017, and a 2019 opening.