First Light Pavilion Visitor’s Centre

Jodrell Bank in the north of England has over 50 years of intergalactic stories to reveal. 

As the world’s oldest existing radio astronomy observatory and site of some of the most groundbreaking intergalactic discoveries since the dawn of the Space Age, the First Light Pavilion at Jodrell Bank brings these stories to life for everyone from the most dedicated intergalactic enthusiasts to the more casual stargazers.

At the centre of the regeneration of Jodrell Bank, First Light Pavilion was designed as a grassy mound rising from the landscape – an engineering feat in its own right and a perfect platform for the amateur astronomer.

Inside the hill, visitors can immerse themselves in Jodrell Bank’s past discoveries and learn more about the Lovell Telescope, one of the world’s largest and most powerful telescopes. We worked closely with exhibition designers Casson Mann on the circular exhibition space and auditorium to celebrate the feats of the amazing scientists and engineers who have changed how we see the universe.

The pavilion has a rich cultural history and today provides an accessible educational experience for the community, regularly hosting exhibitions, film screenings, educational lectures and special events.

In 2021, the Jodrell Bank Observatory was formally recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.


University of Manchester


Macclesfield, UK





Sustainability Ratings

BREEAM Very Good (achieved)


Casson Mann

Design team

Julian Gitsham, Gary Collins, Adam Atraktzi, Oliver Kampshoff, Sarah Willats, Clive Lewis, Kaja Swiezewska, Trang Dao, David Brown


Hufton and Crow

First Light Pavilion was designed to seamlessly integrate into the natural landscape and impact the UNESCO heritage-listed site as minimally as possible. 

Highlights include:

  • Non-standard construction techniques enhance the Pavilion’s thermal and energy efficiency.
  • There was a strong drive to minimise materiality in developing the concrete dome, which was designed and ­­— in collaboration with structural engineering company Atelier One, the University of Nottingham and the University of Leeds — structurally engineered to be as thin as possible.
  • To minimise disruption to the site’s existing ecology, the topsoil that was stripped off the site during construction was tested and stored on the neighbouring property and reinstated onsite at the end of construction, covering the roof dome as the growing medium for the green roof.
  • Located on a wet site with a very high water table, the Pavilion’s water run-off is fully managed and distributed to a newly created attenuation pond, which then links to a series of existing ponds that run through the site.
  • Original materials have been reused in the First Light Pavilion. Sections of the first 1957 observation dish from the Lovell Telescope were integrated by our collaborators and exhibition designers Casson Mann to form part of the backdrop and projection surfaces in the exhibition.

- 64th annual Civic Trust Awards

- 2021 North West Regional Construction Awards (Innovation Award)



University of Manchester's First Light Pavilion Visitor's Centre, UK, will bring people closer to science and astronomy, opening up a world of possibilities for both stargazers and the next generation of aspiring scientists. #astronomy #stars #science #design #UK #Manchester

University of Manchester's First Light Pavilion Visitor's Centre, UK, will bring people closer to science and astronomy, opening up a world of possib…

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