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Stanton Williams were commissioned by English Heritage in 1998 to design new visitor facilities for Whitby Abbey. The works formed part of a broader masterplan developed by Stanton Williams with English Heritage in which the ruined Abbey’s headland grounds were reworked to create a fully accessible setting which respected the considerable archaeological and historical significance of the site.
The new Visitor Centre comprises an exhibition gallery and shop created within the semi-ruined seventeenth-century Banqueting Hall. A steel framework was inserted, cage-like, within its shell. Though attached to the shell, the framework reads as an independent structure which supports the centre’s upper floor and roof.Old and new are creatively juxtaposed throughout, especially on the southern front where the steel framework is cantilevered out above the partially-ruined wall in order to support a ‘curtain’ of metal, glass and timber which hangs in front of it. Internally, new screens, showcases and furniture contrast with the exposed brick and stone of the historic building, creating a welcoming setting for archaeological displays and site interpretation.
The building was completed in 2002 at a cost of £2.85 million. It has been widely acclaimed and has been the recipient of numerous awards from organisations including the RIBA, RICS, Europa Nostra and the Civic Trust.