Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust are now seeking tenders from experienced and creative individuals or teams to deliver a costed design scheme for the planned new Heritage and Learning Centre, due to open in December 2014.
Since May, 2006, temporary accommodation has been provided for visitors in a prefabricated building in Bridge Road at the Leigh Woods end of the bridge but its limited space has meant that the display material on show has been minimal, facilities for visiting school groups have been cramped, and there has been little room for souvenir sales.
Now plans are in hand for a £1.9 million development on the 667 sq m Bridge Yard site opposite the temporary accommodation. It will enable a brand new Heritage and Learning Centre to be built alongside new administration offices for use by the Bridge Master and his staff, as well as the new storage and workshop buildings required to support the long-term maintenance programme on the Victorian bridge.
The trustees are keen to complete the development within three years so that the official opening of the new Heritage and Learning Centre can coincide with the 150th anniversary of the official opening of Clifton Suspension Bridge on Monday, December 8, 2014.
With a floor area of around 320 sq m on two floors, the new centre will be a pavilion incorporating an exhibition space around three times the size of the one in the current temporary accommodation. On show will be information displays, images, hands-on exhibits and artefacts, some of which have been in storage since the Bridge House Visitor Centre closed eight years ago.
Visitor Services Manager Laura Hilton said: “We plan to create a place for our visitors to learn and deepen their appreciation and participation in the future of Clifton Suspension Bridge. We want to encourage local visitors, tourists, school children and engineering scholars to discover Isambard Kingdom Brunel – the Victorian engineer who designed the bridge – as well as his legacy and the context of what is regarded as one of his greatest creations.
“The new centre will provide lots of opportunities for visitors of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in the creation of displays about Bristol’s icon and its designer and the Interpretation Consultants will play a key part in bringing these displays to life.”
During the past four years the existing temporary facility has welcomed an average of 57,000 visitors annually – including tourists from more than 100 countries – but Laura is keen to attract more of the people who come only to look at the bridge to visit the centre as well. She also hopes that, with more to see and learn, visitors will stay longer.
“We want to ensure that they gain more from their visit,” she says. “We have conducted a study which shows that most visitors arrive having crossed from the Clifton side of the bridge, so we want to enhance their experience which starts as soon as they approach it.”
Within the new centre, an assembly area for groups visiting in wet weather as well as a learning and activity space, and a shop selling books, pictures and souvenirs will be among facilities.
Consultants interested in bidding for the tender have until Friday 22nd March to apply and should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an information pack.