The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo © Richard Learoyd
Axonometric drawing courtesy of Cullinan Studio
Photo © Richard Learoyd

100 Buildings 100 Years

1992: Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, North Yorkshire

Condition: Good condition
Architect: Edward Cullinan
Location: Ripon, North Yorkshire

The Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre is a delightful building arranged around a courtyard, which enhances the experience of coming to this historic site. It is an exemplar project, which set the standard against which all future facilities of this type would be measured.

A careful blend of traditional materials and the use of grassy embankments against the perimeter help to root the building in the landscape. There are steeply pitched slate roofs juxtaposed with softly curved lead roofs, dry-stone external walls and bespoke cedar-framed glazed screens and windows, all of which complement the rural setting.

There are trademark elements of Cullinan’s quirky individuality expressed on the sloping ceilings of the interior, and in the lighting arrays mounted on their coloured battens. This helps to give the building a playfulness that the general public seem to have warmed to.

This is an uncompromisingly modern building which respects its heritage context, and yet it embraces visitors as soon as they walk into the courtyard, framing a view of the Abbey tower in the distance. For me it simply still has the ‘wow’ factor, which has stood the test of time.

by Paul Barnfather

Cullinan Studios project page

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