Celebrating the First Birthday of the First Light Pavilion

Posted 20 Jun, 2023

image Laura Davis, UK Ambassador to UNESCO officially launches the First Light Pavilion

A sunny day on the Summer Solstice, 21st June 2022, and the UK Ambassador to UNESCO declares the First Light Pavilion, our spectacular new gallery and exhibition, and a true labour-of-love, open!

Over 10 years in the planning, and a build threatened by lockdowns, the £21m First Light Pavilion was ready to welcome visitors and embark on a transformative journey into the mysteries of the universe.

As we mark its first birthday this month, we celebrate the tremendous achievements of this architectural masterpiece that has welcomed over 100,000 people and won numerous well-deserved accolades in the process.

Designed by global architecture firm Hassell, the First Light Pavilion stands as a striking testament to human ingenuity and our eternal fascination with the cosmos. Its award-winning grass-topped dome, recently planted with wildflowers by volunteers, has a 76m diameter mirroring that of the iconic Lovell Telescope. And in homage to fellow, ancient UNESCO sites such as Stonehenge and Newgrange, by aligning with the Sun through a meridian line located in the central atrium, the Pavilion establishes a connection with our place on Earth. It also serves as a huge sundial, much to the fascination of those seeing it for the first time.

image The Meridian Line Window at the First Light Pavilion

Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement, reflects on the Pavilion’s impact; “The First Light Pavilion has been transformative, allowing us to share the awe-inspiring story of Jodrell Bank with even more people. Its architectural brilliance and immersive exhibitions have captured the imaginations of visitors from all walks of life, inspiring a sense of wonder and curiosity, which is what Jodrell Bank is all about. We’re so proud of it.”

Inside the Pavilion, the First Light Exhibition brings the rich heritage of Jodrell Bank to life. Through innovative digital displays and projections, visitors are immersed in a tapestry of captivating audio, film, diaries, letters, plans and photographs. The gallery structures, crafted from repurposed panels from the Lovell Telescope itself, offer a tangible connection to the skies above. No rust was removed in the making of this unique experience!

Of course, no visit to the First Light Pavilion is complete without immersing yourself in the Space Dome; with its curved projection screen and specially commissioned films. The custom-built auditorium transports visitors into the depths of the universe through planetarium-style shows, narrated by famous names such as physicist Brian Cox, and talks led by Jodrell Bank’s Education team. Here, visitors young and old leave feeling inspired by the grandeur of galaxies and the wonders that lie beyond our reach.

The National and International recognition bestowed upon the First Light Pavilion in the last 12 months, further validate its extraordinary impact. The Civic Trust Awards, among others, honour the Pavilion’s architectural brilliance and its ability to create a transformative experience for visitors. These really serve to affirm the success of the Pavilion in fostering a love for space, inspiring future generations of scientists, and bringing the community together.

As we celebrate this significant milestone, we look ahead with anticipation and excitement for the future. First Light will continue to serve as a beacon of scientific engagement, cultural significance, and architectural excellence with each passing year, and we’re all so proud to be part of it.

Award winning:

  • Civic Trust Awards

Winner, First Light Pavilion

  • British Society for the History of Science

Exhibiting Excellence, Large Exhibition Prize for permanent exhibition ‘The Story of Jodrell Bank’

  • LABC Building Excellence Awards

Best Public or Community Building for First Light Pavilion

  • Place North West Awards

Construction Project of the Year – First Light Pavilion

  • NFRC Roofing Awards

Project of the Year – First Light Pavilion, Green Roof Category

  • Making a Difference Awards

Special Achievement Award for First Light Pavilion – Presented by the University of Manchester

  • Marketing Cheshire Awards

Highly Commended, Visitor Attraction of the Year

To be announced: Nominated for the UK Architecture Award.


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