The Challenge:

The First Light Pavilion is a Heritage Lottery Fund-supported initiative that aims to conserve and restore the heritage at the Jodrell Bank site and create a spectacular new visitor space to display the history of Radio Astronomy.

Jodrell Bank Observatory is the world’s earliest radio astronomy observatory still in existence and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2019This project will enable its award-winning Discovery Centre to provide visitors with the context for that new status and to share and celebrate the stories of its scientists and engineers, and the pioneering work that has, and continues to be, conducted there.

The Solution:

The main structure of the First Light Pavilion is an in-situ concrete dome which is then buried beneath earth and seeded to appear as a “hill” in the arboretum of the Observatory. The delivery of this project included constructing the first concrete dome in the UK in over 25 years and is one of the largest concrete domes in Europe.

Our Kier project manager brought together experts from several fields to construct a full-scale prototype, allowing for the different phases of the dome construction to be further analysed and tested.

Sustainability has been at the forefront of this project including rainwater harvesting from the site cabins for boot and tool washing; re-using and recycling waste wherever possible; removing excess excavation material in the building works to reduce number of vehicle movements; ecology protection including tree protection, the installation of bird and bat boxes and use of scarecrows to keep nesting away from construction areas; and using a local supply of ethically sourced topsoil. Throughout the project Kier monitored and minimised the use of natural resources and carbon footprint reporting and off-setting.

The Impact:

The new pavilion offers new visitor facilities including an exhibition gallery that explains Jodrell Bank’s unique and inspiring history, an immersive projection space and auditorium, and a new education hub and café.


The grass-covered dome shaped building has a number of cutaways, including the Pavilion’s entrance built into a curved concrete wall designed to reflect the arc of the sun. Two separate walls that guide visitors in, with a single glass slot cut out at the centre, illuminate a meridian line cast onto the floor at the entrance, echoing a history of astronomy in architecture.

Leaving a local legacy was important on this project including giving site tours to visitors to Jodrell bank, creating local jobs (20), 24 educational engagements, seven meaningful work experience weeks and 87% local procurement.

The project has already won two North West Regional Construction Awards for Innovation on the project and winning the Sub-Regional Project of the Year Award (Cheshire, Wirral and Warrington).

" This is another major milestone in our First Light Project which has been kindly supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and we are overjoyed to be able to see the construction of our stunning new building come to completion. Kier has done an incredible job realising the building’s ambitious design and we can’t wait to begin the next stage of exhibition planning and installation before finally welcoming visitors into the building next year. "
Teresa Anderson Director Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

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