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Sunday, 21 October, 2001, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Award for steelhouse science
The Magna Centre
The Magna Centre opened in April
An interactive science centre which was once a steelworks has won one of the UK's most prestigious architectural awards.

The Magna Centre in Rotherham, south Yorkshire has been awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects' Stirling prize.

The centre, which opened in April, is set within a vast former steelworks and is a hands-on attraction that explores the themes of earth, air, fire and water.

The judges said: "Photographs cannot convey the feeling of being inside - the drama of being a small person within a vast black space, relieved by gashes of red light, sheets of flame and more spots of white light, has to be experienced."

'Spectacular place'

The centre was built with a grant of 46m from the Millennium Commission.

Dr Denis McShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, praised the winning architects for turning the site into a "cathedral-like theatre of industrial history" but adding "humour, wit and drama".

The Magna Centre
The centre is set within a former steelworks
Dr McShane said: "It is the most spectacular and eerie place in Europe to go into and kids and adults learn more about how the world works than from any other museum in the world."

Dr McShane was chairman of the committee set up to convert the giant Templebrough steel plant which once housed the world's biggest electric arc furnace.

The furnace and the recreation of steel-making now have pride of place in the "Big Melt" part of the centre.

The judges added: "Wilkinson Eyre's great achievement, supported by inspired lighting design, has been to allow the existing building to speak for itself and to tell its own history.

"The simple device of inserting a walkway that runs centrally through space along the length of the building, keeps visitors away from the dirty tackiness of an industrial building only recently abandoned and allows them to savour its vastness."

Six other examples of British architecture had been shortlisted for the award, including the British Embassy in Berlin, Portcullis House and Westminster Underground station and a doctor's surgery in Hammersmith, west London.

The winning team behind the project, Wilkinson Eyre Architects, received a 20,000 cheque.

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