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You might be surprised how Irvine’s abandoned science centre looks 14 years after closing

28 June 2017 | Part of the Lost Scotland series

The Big Idea in Irvine had big aspirations – and cost millions of pounds of public money to get up and running. It closed in 2003 after only three years of operation. Abandoned Scotland went to find out how it looks now.

The abandoned science centre in North Ayrshire

Take a look around The Big Idea.

The innovation bridge

To reach the centre visitors crossed the River Irvine on a structure called The Bridge of Scottish Invention.

Part of the bridge could retract to let tall ships pass through and was closest to open sea of any movable bridge across a river in Britain.

Blending into nature

The centre sits on the site of an explosives factory on the Ardeer Peninsular.

It was designed to look like a dune to help it blend in with its natural surroundings and even features a turf-covered roof.

The reception that welcomes no visitors

The Big Idea was intended to be a ‘living laboratory for people who wish to think, to dream, to discover, to innovate and to invent’.

Yet after spending £14 million to get it up and running in 2000, the Big Idea closed its doors to the public by 2003 after visitor numbers fell to 50,000 — which was 20,000 fewer than the number required to cover its running costs.

Abandoned exhibits

The lack of visitors at the Big Idea was blamed in part on the opening of a similar facility nearby in 2001.

Brian Donohoe, the former MP for the area, said that, ‘The death warrant came around the first day they gave a grant to the science centre in Glasgow. People aren’t going to come by the science centre in Glasgow to look at a similar facility in Irvine’.

Lectures not given

Some parts of the building are so well-preserved it appears as if staff and visitors have left just left a few hours before, rather than 13 years ago.

It’s hoped that the building could be reopened in some form as part of a £200 million plan to build homes and leisure facilities around Irvine’s harbour.

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