Mass Tourism has a paradoxical effect: The infrastructure for access and interpretation it demands can obscure the very thing visitors come to see. Wilderness is mediated and culture commodified. Tour buses block the postcard view.
Sightseers have flocked to the Giant's Causeway on the coast of Northern Ireland since the 19th century, and today half a million people a year travel to this craggy formation of volcanic basalt columns lining a string of steep-sided bays. For the last 12 years they have been greeted by a dreary range of timber sheds, installed after a permanent visitor center was destroyed by fire. In 2005 the government organized an international design competition for a replacement befitting a UNESCO World Heritage site. The newly complete $30 million building, by Dublin-based Heneghan Peng, is exemplary in its balance of competing demands, making space for commercial and transport requirements while recognizing that these should not intrude on visitors' experience of the place.