A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as of special cultural or physical significance. Blaenavon Ironworks is just one of the few attractions in the world to be awarded this prestigious status.
Blaenavon Ironworks, the setting of the award-winning BBC television series Coal House, is the most significant feature within the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. The ironworks, which commenced production in 1789, is the best preserved blast furnace complex of its period and type in the world and is one of the most important monuments to have survived from the early part of the industrial revolution. Blaenavon Ironworks is historically significant as during the early nineteenth century the ironworks was one of the most important producers of iron in the world.
The ironworks were at the cutting-edge of new technology as far back as 1789 and that tradition continues today, with Atlas AV’s award-winning audio visual solutions being used to recreate conditions centuries ago and helping send modern day visitors to the site back in time and get a sense of what it was like to work in the “vision of hell”.
Before Atlas AV were called in to work on the site in 2012, visitor numbers to Blaenavon Ironworks were in steady decline and visitors were unimpressed with the site. To reverse this decline, CADW initiated a bold programme of development to create an immersive, inspirational and memorable experience for visitors. Atlas AV and Bright 3D were given a brief to bring the site to life by recapturing the essence of its noisy, fiery, dirty and sweaty heyday and create a sensory and artistic experience which provides a platform to tell the stories of the people who lived and worked there.
The new interpretation of the cast house is called the ‘virtual blast furnace’ which encapsulates the sounds and sights of the site, giving the visitor an idea of what it would have been like working their at the height of the industrial revolution. Innovative use of technology and lighting recreates the fiery heart of the blast furnace and the flow of molten iron into channels and ‘pigs’ across the Cast House floor. The project involved the creation of a light and sound show, which mimics the production of iron, and presentations of images, old photographs and narration. An accompanying video on the wall gives an idea of how the process would have looked.
Visitors are startled by the sounds and are genuinely overwhelmed by what went on here. During the first year of the new instillation, visitor numbers grew by 20% and the new AV has created massive word of mouth marketing for the Ironworks.