OLP exhibition work is approved

O’Leary Prescott had first-stage concepts approved last week for identity, content and exhibition designs on a £6.5m visitor attraction in Devon, Design Week can exclusively reveal.

The design budget for the project, a marine wildlife centre called Living Coasts – Life on the Edge, is £250 000. Paignton Zoo is behind the attraction, which is funded by a combination of regional development agency, European and loan finance. It is to open next June on the waterfront in Torquay.

O’Leary Prescott partner Alexandra Prescott says, ‘The brief is to convey an important message about coastlines, but it’s not being sold as a conservation experience. It has to appeal to Torquay day-trippers and families with children.’

The site has been derelict for about ten years and was formerly a spa and a nightclub. About 60 per cent of the exhibition space will be external, Prescott adds. One key internal area, ‘with the loose working title of Investigate’, will feature interactive displays about sea birds and mammals and man’s effect on their environments, she says. O’Leary Prescott won the work in December 2001 after a competitive creative pitch against Real Studios and Exhibition Plus.

Paignton Zoo project manager Barry Edwards says, ‘We were impressed by the consultancy’s fresh ideas and its ability to work with a tight budget and a large storyline.’

The centre covers habitats from five locations around the world, as well as the interactive element.

O’Leary Prescott is working alongside Torquay-based architect Kay Elliott Architects. The consultancy will put the fabrication contract out to tender in ‘August or September’, according to Prescott.

Work on-site is due to start in March 2003.

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