The National Trust has opened its new £18.5m visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Designed by Dublin-based architects Heneghan Peng, the 1,800m² building took two years to complete and includes exhibition spaces, a cafe, shops and a grass-planted roof.
The building’s construction includes186 basalt columns made from locally quarried stone and the centre has already received a BREEAM Excellent rating for sustainability.
The design for the centre has been inspired by the causeway’s 40,000 hexagonal basalt stones and the stories of the legendary giants, Finn McCool and Benandonner.
National Trust director for Northern Ireland Heather Thompson said that it was important for the trust to create visitor facilities worthy of this legendary visitor attraction.
"As well as looking the part, we wanted to ensure the building was sustainably built using the latest technologies wherever possible," Thompson said. "Currently 600,000 people visit the stones each year, and the new centre will enable us to increase capacity by 30%."
Existing trails and pathways throughout the site have also been upgraded, while exhibitions, audio guides, trails and cliff top walks at the centre will showcase the stories and science of the basalt columns.
UK-based construction firm Arup was responsible for delivering the structures for the project while engineering services provider Bennett Robertson oversaw building services.
The decision to reconstruct the centre follows years of controversy after the original centre burned down in 2000.
The National Trust provided £6.25m funding for the project and the Department of Enterprise Trade & Investment, through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, provided £9.25m.