London's South Bank secured another major visitor attraction last week with the official opening of Vinopolis, an interactive exhibition devoted to the appreciation of wine, complete with associated restaurants, a wine bar and shops.
Designed by Hunter and Partners with Jasper Jacobs Associates, the £25- million project is an 'Odyssey' of wine, taking the visitor through a series of atmospheric rooms created in the newly-restored Victorian brick arches and vaults below railway lines serving Cannon Street Station. Rooms are themed around different countries, and topics such as wine and health. One room even features 'sensibilia' - an education on how to 'taste' wine through the nose and sniff for grape 'personalities.' Visitors to the 10,470m2 complex will pay an 'introductory' fee of £10, for which they get access, a cd audio guide which is updated automatically in each room by sensors in the building fabric, and five tasting samples at the end of the tour. Other space in the building is available for conferences, banqueting and other events. Space for the Hess contemporary art collection will open on site in September and there are tentative plans for another restaurant in the arches on the north side of Clink Street.
Regeneration agency English Partnerships provided £2.54 million of the gap funding required for the project, which is aiming to attract 600,000 visitors per year.
Project backer Sir Thomas Macpherson said that the scheme had been in gestation for 13 years of 'blood sweat and tears' but he was optimistic about its viability.
And Culture Secretary Chris Smith, there to officially open the building, said that such touristic venues were 'big business' for the economy. 'There's so much happening, so much life, so much regeneration' said Smith.