Queen cuts ribbon at £34m, Hopkins-designed interactive visitor centre today.
Scotland’s largest interactive visitor centre, Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, is officially opened by the Queen today. The £34m visitor centre stands just behind the site of the new Scottish parliament building at Holyrood and forms part of the £150m regeneration of the area.

Designed by architect Michael Hopkins & Partners, the 6300 m2 centre features a white fabric roof supported on four cable-stayed steel trusses. Beneath the modern, translucent fabric roof, the visitor attractions are housed on three floors with external walls faced in traditional Scottish sandstone masonry. The complex includes a hemispherical cinema and, in front of the main entrance, an open stone amphitheatre that seats 1000 people.

Dynamic Earth claims that “visitors will be able to experience the evolution of our planet and view some of the awesome forces that have formed the environment over millions of years”, courtesy of state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, wraparound imagery and other computer-generated special effects. Visitors will be treated to a 90-minute journey back through time, featuring erupting volcanoes, a life-sized pterodactyl and a tropical rainforest complete with constantly changing wild animals. Earthquakes, tidal waves and lightening forks will provide a sensational finale.

The museum, which aims to attract more than 430 000 visitors in its first year, was developed with a £15m grant from the Millennium Commission. Its site forms part of a 5.4 ha regeneration area in Edinburgh Old Town that was formerly occupied by a brewery and a gas works. In an unusual twist, the Scottish and Newcastle Brewery donated its site to the project, stipulating that “the site be redeveloped to the highest standards, in sympathy with its surroundings”, a covenant that led to the appointment of Hopkins as architect. Other funds came from the City of Edinburgh Council and the local enterprise agency, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise.

Dynamic Earth was built by Laing Management as management contractor. Ove Arup & Partners was structural and services engineer and Gardiner & Theobald was QS.