Jurassica

Michael Hanlon

What is it?

A spectacular world-class visitor attraction, designed by Renzo Piano, and with the backing of patron Sir David Attenborough and trustee Sir Tim Smit, to be sited in an old limestone quarry on the Isle of Portland. Jurassica, which is an educational and heritage-focussed charitable trust, will act as a focus for the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Coast comprises a huge variety of landscapes – sandy beaches, cliffs, rocky foreshores and dunes. The rocks which underlie it contain some of the richest fossil beds in the world. This was the birthplace of modern geology, and the fossil sea creatures and dinosaurs collected here in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the great scientific revolutions of the Victorian era.

Why Jurassica? Why now?

Although the Jurassic Coast is one of the most popular stretches of coastline in the world (around 12-15 million visitors a year on average) there is, at present, no central focus. There are a number of small museums and visitor centres, notably in Dorchester and Lyme Regis, but none really addresses the grandeur of the area’s extraordinary geological heritage. Jurassica would be that focus.

What will visitors see?

The proposal is to build a spectacular subterranean geological park in a recently disused quarry (Broadcroft) on the Isle of Portland. This quarry forms, in effect, a gigantic hole in the ground (called Yeoland’s Pit) about 300ft across and 120ft deep. This gives a volume of about a third of the Millennium Dome. The pit will be covered with a unique, lightweight, spider-web-like translucent roof that will be almost invisible from outside. The engineering is being led by the team responsible for both the Eden Project and the refurbishment of the Sydney Opera House.
The idea is that visitors will, literally, be struck breathless as they emerge into a space that is unlike any other in the world. Jurassica will be a place where the world of 140 million years ago comes to life. Against a unique backdrop of in-situ strata and fossils, Jurassica will showcase hundreds of world-class paleontological remains showing the fauna and flora of the Mesozoic. These will include dinosaurs, marine reptiles, marine invertebrates and plants. The space created by the architect will use the natural rock as a primary design feature. Jurassica will be the world’s first carbon-negative large visitor attraction.
Jurassic is not just a fossil museum but instead a mixture of architectural spectacle and learning. Jurassica will form a key part of the United Kingdom’s neglected scientific and environmental heritage.

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