Causeway Competition Winner

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    • #708172

      Plans for a new £12m visitors’ centre at the Giant’s Causeway have been unveiled in Belfast.
      The winning design for the new centre at the County Antrim landmark was submitted by Dublin based architect Roisin Heneghan.

      It was selected following an international competition which attracted more than 200 entries from architects across the world.

      A fire destroyed the original centre at the causeway in April 2000.

      Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the project was one of the most important developments for tourism in Northern Ireland in recent years.

      “This design is a stunning piece of architecture, providing a unique space for visitors from all over the world to appreciate the natural beauty of Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site,” he said.

      The planned building is designed to merge into the contours of the landscape so as not to disturb the view.

      Northern Ireland Tourist Board chairman Tom McGrath said the new centre would enhance the experience of visiting the causeway.

      “Having now seen the winning design I am extremely optimistic that the new visitor facilities will be acclaimed by local and international visitors alike,” he said.

      Top attraction

      The causeway is Northern Ireland’s top tourist attraction, with nearly 500,000 visitors a year.

      Earlier this year, the body responsible for the designation of World Heritage Sites received a new plan for the Giant’s Causeway.

      The management plan was requested by Unesco following its mission to the causeway in 2003.

      The Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s top tourist attraction

      The plan set out how government, the National Trust, Moyle District Council and others would work together to ensure the interests of the causeway, its visitors and local residents, were all catered for.

      The Giant’s Causeway’s unique rock formations of rugged symmetrical columns have, for millions of years, stood as a natural rampart against the ferocity of Atlantic storms.

      The “discovery” of the causeway was announced in a paper to the Royal Society in 1693.

      At that time, there was furious debate over whether the causeway had been created by men with picks and chisels, by nature, or by the efforts of a giant called Finn.

      Ryan Hood
      Over the next few days our entry will be posted on under the commercial section.

    • #762461
      Paul Clerkin

      The full list of prize winners is as follows:
      First Prize: Roisin Heneghan; Hennegan Peng Architects, Dublin
      Second Prize: Riina Palva; Architectural Verstas, Helsinki
      Third Prize: Matos Gameiro + Carlos Crespo Arquitectos Lda, Lisbon

      Honourable mentions:
      Jun Aoki Associates,Tokyo
      Carlos Sousa Dias & Nuno Santos, Portugal
      Jennifer Carr

    • #762462
    • #762463

      The silence on this is deafening.

    • #762464

      getting any discussion on N.Ireland issues is difficult.

    • #762465
      Paul Clerkin

      We’ve appealed for entries on our newsletter for our “Unbuilt Ireland” – indeed I have emailed you Ryan for permission to include your firms, but no reply.

    • #762466

      I’m amazed that more entries weren’t submitted given the level of work that goes into competitions as this site is the perfect place to gain exposure for work that hasn’t won but is of a very high standard at the same time.

      Given that HP won the competition with what appears to be a very high quality design I am amazed at the lack of interest given what might have been built there if no competition had taken place; I shudder to think what might have been allowed if the Causeway was in Donegal.

    • #762467

      Paul I would have no problem with you publishing any of our competition schemes on the unbuilt site, I cant remember receiving any email from you. If you require larger images drop me a line



    • #762468

      Hi all

      Brian Quinn here from Rooney & McConville Architects in Belfast. (

      We had an entry which for some inexplicable reason didn’t win 🙂 Paul, if you want images let me know how to send them to you.

      First of all congratulations to H&P, their Pyramids scheme is a tour de force. The comments that follow are in no way meant to be churlish or anything other than a discussion of issues. H&G GIant’s Causeway? based on the two images in the archive here – which is all I have seen – the jury is still out for me.
      Amongst the many issues we considered was what impact or presence is the scheme to have on the site, and as a gateway to the causeway? Our conclusion was that the intervention had to ‘take on’ the hotel, the public house and the former school building. ‘Burying’ the building, as H&P seem to be doing, was for us an inadequate response in this regard (though obviously not for the judges 🙂 . The hotel etc assume an exaggerated inappropriate presence now. Ryan’s scheme, from what I can make out, strikes a more appropriate balance with the white ‘portal’.
      Another issue was: how do you get to the Causeway in a way appropriate to World Heritage Site? H&G don’t appear to have addressed this – though I accept they may have done elsewhere in their presentation.

      ps Hi Ryan – trust you to get your site up first.

    • #762469

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your comments on our scheme. We too took the approach that whatever we brought to the site it had to act as a “gateway” to the causeway and although our accommodation was loacted under ground the portal / gallery gateway would always be the primary element to our design.

      I think it is interesting that 1st prize is an understated scheme yet 2nd prize is quite the opposite. Perhaps the Jury shortlisted a number of underground schemes, a number of highrise schemes etc – Then picked the best from each section and finally arrived at an overall winner.



    • #762470

      PS Brian, could you email me a couple of images of your scheme, we are always interested to see other entries.



    • #762471

      I found this page on the DTINI website which shows some really good images of the winning entry

      The article also lists a completion for some time in 2008; presuming there has been no slippage that gives roughly 21 months. Does anyone know if construction has commenced?

    • #762472
      Paul Clerkin

      No public cash for tourist centre

      Plans to spend £21m of public money on a visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway are to be dropped, Economy Minister Nigel Dodds has said.
      He said his department and the Tourist Board had become involved “because key stakeholders had been unable to reach agreement”.

      Earlier Environment Minister Arlene Foster said she wanted the centre to be built by a private developer.

      She said she would make a formal decision at the earliest opportunity.

      The previous visitor centre on the site burned down in April 2000.

      Nigel Dodds said his department had been involved as “a potential developer of last resort”.

      “It would not be a prudent use of taxpayers’ money to proceed further in the circumstances, given Minister Foster’s position on the private sector planning application. The DETI/NITB project would cost in excess of £21m,” he said.

      The Causeway attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year.

      Renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt – resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago – it is the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.

      Ms Foster said she had visited the site and there was considerable merit to the Seaport Investments Ltd plan for a new Visitor and Study Centre at the site.

      “I have asked my officials to engage with the developer and key local stakeholders on some aspects of the proposal so that I can make a formal decision on it at the earliest opportunity,” she said.

      The assembly is due to debate the issue on Tuesday.

    • #762473

      I think this is seriously bad shit that they are planning to use a private developer for this project after already spending £1 million on development plans and hugely successful (entrants) international competition; I would be disgusted if they did not go ahed with Henegan Peng’s scheme. …though reading today’s papers it seems that the tide is changing once again in favour of the HP……phewww

      However I am confused about an element in all of this – the National Trust, which owns and provides access to the Causeway, has claimed that any development on previously undeveloped land could put at risk the area’s status as a world heritage site… how come they do not have the final say, if they feel like this U turn is a bad idea then do they have the power to say no…or is it because they are tied by the public funds allocated to it and they must go along with whatever? …also it appears in the papers that the relationship between the Minister Arlene Foster and the developer is also suspect

      Good news today – Councillors Vote To Keep Giant’s Causeway Public

      Councillors from Coleraine Borough Council have voted to keep the Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre in public hands.
      Several DUP councillors were among those who voted in favour of the motion, which was put forward by the SDLP’s council member John Dallat.

      The move came after Environment Minister Arlene Foster revealed earlier this week that she is “of a mind to approve” a private application by developer and fellow DUP member Seymour Sweeney.

      The move sparked Sinn Fein to call on the DUP to clarify its relationship with Mr Sweeney.

      Ms Foster has dismissed claims that her decision was influenced by Mr Sweeney’s membership of the party as “rubbish”, while Mr Sweeney has said that while he is a member of the DUP, he has never given any money to the party.

      Ms Foster has also hinted that she may consider taking legal action.

      Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister Nigel Dodds said earlier this week that the project would cost more than £21 million and said that it would not be a “prudent use of taxpayers’ money” to proceed with the project, given Ms Foster’s consideration of the private planning application.

      Mr Dodds said that his department and Northern Ireland Tourist Board had only become involved as “a potential developer of last resort”, because key stakeholders were “unable, over an extended period of time, to reach agreement”.

      More than £1 million had been spent on the project so far by the department.


      DUP dissent over Causeway decision

      Related Articles
      Minister denies conflict of interest claims
      Viewpoint: Consensus needed on Causeway centre
      Watch this story on Belfast Telegraph TV
      Wednesday, September 12, 2007

      By David Gordon

      The DUP leadership was facing grassroots dissent today over its decision to back a private sector visitor centre development for the Giant’s Causeway.

      The party’s representatives on Coleraine Council last night joined with other parties to unanimously oppose the controversial plan favoured by DUP Ministers Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds.

      And Coleraine’s DUP mayor today suggested that it could take legal action in the absence of a rethink.

      Mrs Foster, the Stormont Environment Minister, stated this week that she was minded to give north coast developer Seymour Sweeney planning approval for a visitor complex project at the Causeway.

      Mr Dodds responded by pulling the plug on his Department of Enterprise’s backing for a publicly funded development – to finally replace the centre destroyed by fire in 2000.

      The National Trust, which owns the Causeway stones, voiced dismay at the Ministerial announcements.

      Moyle Council, which owns the car park at the famous attraction, is due to discuss the situation on Friday.

      Last night’s Coleraine vote was proposed by the SDLP’s John Dallat, who today described it as a “huge embarrassment” for the DUP’s high command.

      He also said: “The Giant’s Causeway, while not our council area, is our ‘pot of gold’ in tourism terms.”

      Coleraine DUP mayor, Maurice Bradley, today said legal action could be considered.

      “We will wait until we get the response from the DoE minister but until the whole council gets that response we cannot make a decision.”

      Mr Sweeney has confirmed that he is a DUP member. His links to the party were raised in an Assembly debate yesterday by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance.

      The Environment Minister said she had been unaware of the developer’s affiliation and threatened to sue anyone who impugned her integrity.

      Mrs Foster today said the Coleraine Council vote undermined claims of a DUP plot in favour of Mr Sweeney.

      “I look at the application on its own right. If DUP councillors don’t agree, and I am sure they don’t agree with a lot of planning applications, that is a matter for them,” she said.

    • #762474

      I will be interested in knowing how they managed to resolve the restriction that was issued at briefing that underground buildings were unlikely to be allowed given the heritage problem associated with the bedrock/lava fields under the build up known as the “burden”.

    • #762475

      I meant to post this last weekend, but I forgot. It’s from the Irish Times Weekend section, 13th Oct 2007.

      The giant cause of the Paisleys’ red faces

      Ian Paisley spoke this week about reforming Freedom of Information, four days after the Act revealed embarrassing details of manoeuvring over a visitors centre, writes Susan McKay

      The big new First Minister smile disappeared last week and there was a flash of the old, furious Paisley. It wasn’t about guns and godfathers – that’s so last year. This was about Freedom of Information (FoI). Well, it was about journalists, really – a pesky UN woman and a couple of nationalist MLAs. Between them, this lot have dug up evidence that is deeply embarrassing to the Paisley duo, father and son.

      On Tuesday at Stormont, the DUP leader denounced “lazy journalists who will not do any work” but who instead “think that we should pay them and give them the information they want”. FoI requests were taking up far too much civil service time.

      There might, he said darkly, have to be reform. Odd that in July the old man had declared proudly that “considerable strides” had been made through FoI, “towards achieving our goal of more open government”.

      What was rattling the First Minister was not lazy journalists, but a very diligent one. Four days before the Stormont outburst, David Gordon of the Belfast Telegraph had revealed the contents of a remarkable letter he had obtained through FoI.

      Written in 2003 on House of Commons notepaper in the name of Rev Dr Ian Paisley MP, MEP and MLA, and signed by Ian Paisley jnr, the letter was to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), berating them for turning down an application for funds from one Seymour Sweeney, who wanted to build a visitors centre at the Giant’s Causeway in Co Antrim.

      The HLF had treated this as if it was some “second rate, minor” thing, Paisley huffed. In fact, he said, this proposal “has Unesco approval”. The grounds given for refusing it were “absolute rubbish”. The HLF was either “poorly advised” or it was “pursuing an agenda” to favour a rival bid. If fraudulence was afoot, he would have to raise it at Westminster.

      Enter the pesky woman. The Giant’s Causeway is the North’s only World Heritage Site, a rare and much prized designation awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). Unesco officials rarely speak in public, but when Mechtild Rössler heard about Paisley’s claims, she gave an interview to BBC Northern Ireland.

      No such approval had been given, she said sternly. For a start, Unesco did not deal with developers, only with governments. And in any case, it had made it clear that any new development on the site should be built in the footprint of the old centre, which burned down in 2000. “That is my position and I am not moving one millimetre,” she said. Not a millimetre. Paisley’s old cry of “not an inch” sounded flexible by comparison.

      The causeway, which attracts half a million visitors a year, is in a designated “area of outstanding national beauty”. Unesco wants a “modest” building on the old site and no building at all on land around that site. Sweeney’s proposal is for a three-storey building, twice the size of the old one, and on land he owns in the proposed protected zone.

      THIS IS GETTING worse and worse for the DUP. After the old centre was destroyed, direct rule minister Ian Pearson had set up an international design competition for a replacement. This had the backing of the National Trust, which owns the causeway stones, the local Moyle District Council, the NI Tourist Board, various heritage and conservation bodies, and the International Union of Architects – the Unesco-nominated body for running such competitions. It was part of the overall integrated plan for the Northern area.

      The winning design was by Dublin architect Róisín Heneghan, and is proudly displayed on the website of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), which covers tourism. Glossy government leaflets about the Giant’s Causeway likewise enthuse over the project.

      In 2005, Heneghan’s company was given the go-ahead. In the same year, we now know, thanks to lazy journalists, Paisley snr, the local MP, wrote to Moyle District Council urging them to drop their support for this plan, which he called “fool’s gold”. The council declined to do so.

      This row blew up last month when the DUP Environment Minister, Arlene Foster, suddenly announced she was “minded” to approve Sweeney’s proposal instead of the award-winning public one. She did so despite the fact that her own departmental officials had recommended refusal of Sweeney’s application. She also said she’d sue anyone who implied any wrongdoing on her part. Days later, the DETI Minister, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, said he was withdrawing public funds from the other project. He later said he was suspending them pending a decision from Foster.

      Sweeney, it quickly emerged, though not from the DUP press office, is a DUP member who signed nomination papers for a local council candidate. He is also one of the main private property developers on the north coast, which is rapidly being ruined by the blight of investment apartment developments and holiday homes. One such home was bought by Ian Paisley jnr, though it was not registered in his name and he did not declare it as an asset.

      Asked on a radio programme if he knew Sweeney, Paisley jnr replied coyly: “I know of him.” Lazy journalists then produced beaming photos of Sweeney and the two Paisleys in Bushmills together. David Gordon said he “spluttered in disbelief”, having met Paisley jnr acting as “an enthusiastic supporter” of Sweeney back in 2001.

      SDLP MLA’s Declan O’Loan and John Dallat have been dogging the DUP on the issue. Dallat is to refer Paisley’s letter to the HLF to the parliamentary standards watchdog at Westminster, and O’Loan has further questions lined up for Foster and Dodds.

      Sinn Féin has demanded to see the planning advice given to Foster. She has so far refused to supply key files.

      The party’s local MLA, and most junior politician, Daithí McKay, even said last week that the party might even have to “review our situation within government”, though senior figures kept their power-sharing smiles firmly in place and said nothing about this extravagant claim. Inside the DUP, Foster and Dodds must be raging.

      Whatever the political fallout, it looks like the Big Man and his son are going to have to wear sackcloth and ashes on this one.

      © 2007 The Irish Times

    • #762476

      Another example of the two Irelands coming together! The FOI act bugged our “Government” so much they gutted it and the DUP don’t like the North’s version FF and the DUP will fit well together.

    • #762477
      Paul Clerkin

      Heneghan Peng design for Giants Causeway to go ahead

    • #762478

      This is great news and will no doubt remove the sceptre of the adjoining landholding claiming that there are no facilities for visitors as an excuse to produce entirely the wrong type of development.

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