Jodrell Bank

University of Manchester, Cheshire

Jodrell Bank: education and research buildings at UNESCO World Heritage site


Jodrell Bank is the earliest radio astronomy observatory in the world still in existence, and it’s still working at the forefront of global astrophysics research.  Established on the Cheshire Plain by Sir Bernard Lovell in 1945, the site boasts a unique blend of visitor and education attractions, an arboretum, science facilities and heritage assets that document the development of radio astronomy, which has revolutionised our understanding of the Universe.

Jodrell Bank is home to the 76.2m diameter Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world; and the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array Organisation, which is pioneering the next generation of globally connected radio telescopes.  Alongside these important scientific functions, the Discovery Centre provides an engaging range of visitor and education facilities, which attract more than 150,000 people a year.


FCBS were closely involved with the development of the Jodrell Bank site over a period of 7 years, during which I managed the following projects:

  1. Star Pavilion (complete)
  2. Planet Cafe Canopy (complete)
  3. Control Building (planning approved)
  4. Square Kilometre Array HQ Phase II (successful bid)
  5. First Light Pavilion (successful HLF bid)

Star Pavilion

The Star Pavilion provides 450m2 of flexible teaching, auditorium and office space for the Discovery Centre outreach and education programmes.  The building is orientated towards the Lovell Telescope with floor-to-ceiling glazing offering expansive views of the impressive structure. The Wolfson Auditorium contains retractable seating and a projector for science shows, and acoustic curtains, which allow the auditorium to be subdivided for science workshops and lunch breaks for visiting schoolchildren.

The appearance of the pavilion is inspired by the engineering of the Grade I listed Lovell Telescope, but it is a subtle addition to the landscape, which is careful not to detract from the main feature of the site.  The pavilion’s dark aluminium cladding and reflective windows give the building a sleek, modern and scientific appearance which contrasts the intricate white metalwork of the Lovell Telescope.

“It [the Discovery Centre] will allow visitors and school pupils – the scientists of the future – to be inspired not only by the telescope, but also by the world-leading science and engineering research carried out at Jodrell Bank and across the University.”

– Sir Bernard Lovell

Planet Cafe Canopy

The Cafe Canopy is an eye-catching extension to the Planet Pavilion, at the entrance to the Discovery Centre.  The canopy provides light shelter for the cafe terrace and frames impressive views of the Lovell Telescope.  The sawtooth form makes the structure almost invisible from inside, maximising views of the telescope and allowing lots of light into the cafe.

The anodised aluminium cladding is perforated with an image of the universe which was taken by the Lovell Telescope and transformed into a cutting mesh.  Read more about the Planet Cafe Canopy here

Control Building

The Control Building is a Grade I listed building and operational research facility for the University of Manchester’s school of Physics and Astronomy.  Completed in 1955 alongside the 250ft Lovell Telescope, the building contains the telescope control room, research laboratories and offices, and now requires renovation.

Existing + Demolitions

The building was significantly and unsympathetically extended in the 1960s.  The proposals remove the 1960s additions, restore and refurbish the original building and make improvements to the building fabric.

Proposed Extension

Alongside the renovation of the existing building, the proposed extension for the Control Building will provide high quality laboratories and research offices to expand the University’s facilities at Jodrell Bank.

Client: University of Manchester

Cost Consultant: Capita

Engineering: Capita

Landscape Design: Grant Associates

Contractor: MC Construction

Photography: Hufton + Crow

Role: Project Architect, Design Team Leader, Contract Administrator

FCBS were involved with transformative regeneration projects at Jodrell Bank over 7 years, which contributed to its renewal as a heritage, culture, science and education hub for the north west.  I joined the team after completion of the Discovery Centre Phase 1 Pavilions and the Square Kilometre Array interim HQ.  I was project architect for the Star Pavilion, the Planet Cafe Canopy and the renovation of the Control Building.  The Star Pavilion and Canopy projects were procured with an NEC contract which I administered.  The Control Building was granted planning and listed building consent but the project was put on hold whilst funding is secured.

I also worked with the Jodrell Bank team on bids to: secure one of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s largest 2015 awards for the First Light Pavilion; win an international bid to host the Square Kilometre Array’s permanent and expanded HQ; and be awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

It’s a remarkable, working site with a rich history and glowing future.  I was fortunate to work closely with the Discovery Centre and Astrophysics teams, on projects which celebrate Jodrell Bank’s tremendous scientific endeavours and which further the site’s relevance to the future of Astrophysics research.