Jodrell Bank
In Brief

University of Manchester 


Construction value:
Visitor Centre and Space Pavilion: £1,640,000
Square Kilometer Array: £1,950,000 
Star Pavilion and Cafe Canopy: £925,000
Control Building : £3,600,000 

March 2015

In 2009 the University of Manchester’s Centre for Astrophysics appointed us to masterplan the famous Jodrell Bank Observatory site and then design a series of new buildings within the park of the Grade 1 listed Lovell Radio Telescope.

The first project brief was to create an inspirational visitor centre to communicate the importance and relevance of the scientific research undertaken at Jodrell to a wider audience.

Following the completion of the visitor centre, the University of Manchester asked the team to help expand the scientific research facilities on site and design the global HQ for the world’s next-generation radio telescope known as the Square Kilometre Array. Third and fourth phases of work are ongoing.

The Lovell Telescope was completed in 1957 and, with its 76.2m diameter dish, is still one of the world's largest movable radio telescopes.

Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, was first used in 1939 for botanical studies.  

Located directly adjacent to the Telescope our new buildings are inspired by engineering of this historic landmark but also need to sit carefully and quietly within the surrounding Cheshire landscape.

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"It will allow visitors and school pupils - the scientists of the future - to be inspired not only by the telescope, but also by the world-leading science and engineering research carried out at Jodrell Bank and across the University."
Sir Bernard Lovell
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The impressive size and structure of the Lovell Telescope, along with the science and technology behind it, offers an array of visual associations and references. From electro-physical concepts like radio waves and varying wavelengths to radio interference and radio deflection, the Jodrell Bank ‘campus’ sparks many different ideas.

Referring to those of radio wave deflection and contrasting with the intricate structure of the Lovell Telescope, all new buildings are clad in a planar metal cassette system, giving the pavilions an understated yet highly distinctive appearance.

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Design Approach

The  Lovell Telescope is a truly inspirational piece of engineering with wonderful sculptural qualities. We chose a steel construction for the new pavilions and a pressed metal cladding to pick up on the telescope’s structure but also aimed for a very planar and simple façade to contrast against the Lovell Telescope’s intricate and complex frame design.

This facade treatment gives both buildings a contemporary and technological appearance to express the scientific spirit of the site and the theme of space exploration. The signal patterns of the telescope’s discoveries are embossed along the facades of the entrance building to the visitor centre buildings.

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"We are all delighted at the way that they [FCB Studios] have taken a web of challenges.... to create a truly innovative and remarkable space. I can't recommend them more highly."
Dr Teresa Anderson, Director, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre
Phase One of the project has achieved a BREEAM: Very Good rating.

High levels of insulation and air tightness combined with low energy LED lighting throughout the scheme ensure the base energy load of the building is kept as low as possible. Heating and additional cooling during peak periods is achieved through air source heat pumps, each located adjacent to the respective building in an external timber enclosure.

Most spaces are naturally ventilated with roof lights and opening windows at high level.  

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Project Manager:
Structural Engineer:
M&E Engineer:
RPS Gregory
Cost Consultant:
Exhibition Designer:
Thomas Matthews
Main Contractor:
John Turner & Sons
Landscape Architect:
Grant Associates
Cheshire Woodlands

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