Snowdon Summit Visitor Centre

The new proposals for the building of the Snowdon Summit Visitor Centre were placed before two public meetings in mid January 2002 by the architects Furneau Stewart and the Snowdonia National Park Authority. Being on the top of Mount Snowdon makes this the tallest building in the UK.

The History of The Buildings On The Summit

The original building was designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (of Portmeirion fame) back in the 1930s and has now been replaced by the visitor centre. For many years lots of alternatives were seriously considered from having absolutely nothing on the summit through to a very large development.

Those responsible for briefing the architects decided that the closure of the railway would have an extremely detrimental economic effect on Llanberis and, if there were to be a railway then obviously passengers would have to be provided with shelter and toilet facilities appropriate to their needs. However one previous proposal would have cost over £10 million and would not only involve considerable disruption during the building but also go against the views of many who did not want to see a more considerable facility than that in place already.Snowdon Summit at present

350,000 people used the building every year. About 120,000 come up on the train and the remainder walk up being divided roughly in half between “serious” mountain walkers and people who are not hikers per se. A survey of users found that very few wanted to see an ’empty’ summit.

The New Building

The architects involved in designing the new building were briefed to look for a building with an eye to reduction – i.e. of costs, environmental and visual impact as well as:

  • The building should have a footprint no larger than that existing.
  • The uniqueness of the local environment should be understood and respected and should avoid further erosion.
  • It should be appropriate as a resource for visitors and hold out against the inclement weather.
  • It should appeal to people of all ages, cultures and abilities – staff and visitor
  • It must interpret the views, weather, geology flora etc. both internally and externally.
  • It must try to achieve sustainability of energy and water production and storage.

The Architects

Furneaux Stewart have worked on projects such as The Welsh National Botanic Gardens, the Eden Project and the Rainforest House in Hanover. Their representative explained that the view of the present building was “of a shoebox” and the view from within “was from a cave”. He explained the many studies of people’s behaviour at the summit and how that of walkers differs from the train visitors and also explained the tests with materials, wind tunnels etc. that are being undertaken.

What Was Considered Before Construction

  • To remove the existing second storey and to place the roof on a slant so that the view of the summit is not impaired, condensation problems inside will be improved, it will be easier to collect rainwater for recycling and energy consumption will be reduced.
  • The water and fuel tanks etc. are to be sited below a raised train platform – this will bring the whole facility on to one level and avoid the need for steps.
  • There will separate access for train passengers and walkers to reduce overcrowding on the platform and to give a secure store for wet walkers equipment to reduce condensation.
  • There will also be separate toilets and serving hatch accessible from outside.
  • There will be two glass walls in the café – one looking to the summit and the other to Moel Hebog. New technology and the angle of the glass should minimise the reflection off the glass at present visible from a long way off
  • The roof and other parts of the building will be faced with stone similar to the natural rock of the summit
  • The building is to go around that existing to ensure minimum disruption whilst building is taking place
  • Sustainability
  • Using building materials from local sources
  • Using redundant construction waste creatively
  • Use inexpensive energy
  • Recycle rainwater

Facilities

  • Simple food and drink – which can be purchased both internally and externally
  • Toilets that can be accessed both from inside and outside
  • A shop
  • No Bar
  • There will be no winter shelter. Experience in Scotland has proved that presence of a purpose built shelter leads to accidents drawing inexperience/ill- equipped parties further than they would otherwise go. However the building and its environs are being designed so there will be some shelter from the elements in every direction.

They are looking at ways of ensuring emergency service radios and mobile telephones of all networks will be usable on the mountain. However the National Park have promised that there will be nothing external that is not shown on the models i.e. no 17 metre masts.

Starting Construction

The ambitious plans to redevelop the buildings at the top Snowdon were submitted in May 2003.
A meeting of the Snowdonia National Park Authority confirmed the appointment of architects Furneaux Stewart – Also appointed to the design team of the Snowdon Summit Refurbishment Project are quantity surveyors Babtie Murdoch Green.
Authority chairman Councillor Caerwyn Roberts said: “Despite some obstacles in the past, we are determined to continue with this worthwhile project.”
The National Park was hoping to receive grants of £2.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the £5.25m revamp but received a setback when it was revealed the Lottery was unlikely to offer more than £750,000 towards the project. The Authority’s officers were instructed to seek other funding partners, including possibly the National Assembly. Authority spokeswoman Llinos Angharad said: “We are still carrying on. The project is too important for Llanberis, Snowdonia, Wales and beyond. It will be easier to attract funding after we’ve submitted the planning application.”
Furneaux Stewart and Babtie Murdoch Green were also be responsible for getting planning approval for the revamp.

For further information on the building check out http://www.snowdon-summit.co.uk