From an old decommissioned building to a new science centre-Inspiration, Engagement and Learning inside MAGNA

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In 2001, Wilkinson Eyre won the RIBA Stirling Prize for this transformation of a redundant steelworks to create the UK’s first Science Adventure Centre. With the story of steel as its main focus, the exhibition is organised by the Aristotelian elements of earth, air, fire and water – all essential to the steelmaking process. The design concept placed four pavilions – one for each of the elements – within the 400m long, 35m high main shed, connected by steel bridges and walkways. Each pavilion is designed to relate to its theme in a poetic way. The earth pavilion, for example, is located in the basement below the ground slab while the air pavilion is designed as a huge dirigible airship which seemingly floats in the space. Meanwhile the fire pavilion is a matt black box containing a tornado of flame, and the water pavilion is enclosed by a coolly-lit wave formed from steel.


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Every hour, on the hour, Magna holds a display called “The Big Melt”. Its purpose is to demonstrate how steel was made in an electric arc furnace until the steelworks closed in 1993. An authentic looking furnace is imitated with several fog, spark, flame and smoke machines, loudspeakers, lights, and blasts of rapidly burning propane which are ignited at appropriate points in the show.



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