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Letting visitors get close to Stonehenge, a 5000 year old World Heritage site, has always been a challenge. It’s a sensitive site with mystical and religious associations — conservation and protection has been a priority. With the opening of a new visitor center, English Heritage saw an opportunity to give visitors a much closer experience of Stonehenge. They wanted to let visitors ‘stand in the stones’ and experience the mystery of summer and winter solstice like Druids or Neolithic people.
Technology would prove the key. Special filming techniques captured panoramic images that would form the basis of a 360⁰ recreation of the inner circle. The challenge was to transform the images into an immersive experience that could be shown in an area that was often extremely crowded. The aim was to give visitors an insight and virtual experience of the stones before they were transported to view the actual site.
The creative solution fused architecture, storytelling and technology by blending an auditorium with 360⁰ screens into the visitor centre. Inside the immersive auditorium, visitors feel like they are surrounded by the stones. Giant high resolution projection and powerful audio create an authentic atmosphere through changing seasons and recreate the excitement of the solstice. Careful siting of edge-blended projectors ensures visitors cannot obstruct any part of the seamless 360⁰ experience.
English Heritage can now give visitors the best of both worlds. They can ‘stand in the stones’ to experience the feeling of ‘being there’ and then view the site from a reasonable distance without the risk of damage to this ancient site. The new centre and the immersive experience have proved to be a great draw, attracting and educating visitors from all over the world.
The environmentally-sensitive centre located 1.5 miles from the stones helps take some of the mystery out of the ancient monument.