New design revealed for Northumberland discovery centre

Project director Stuart Evans, centre, architect Alison Thornton-Sykes and head of capital fund-raising at YHA Simon Ainley pictured at the public consultation event for the Sill project.
Project director Stuart Evans, centre, architect Alison Thornton-Sykes and head of capital fund-raising at YHA Simon Ainley pictured at the public consultation event for the Sill project.

A 3D fly-through featuring the innovative designs for Northumberland’s planned new national landscape discovery centre and YHA youth hostel has been revealed.

The Sill aims to inspire and transform how people understand, access and enjoy the unspoilt natural and cultural landscapes of Northumberland National Park, Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site and across the rest of the region.

At the most recent community event, members of the public were treated to a more in-depth look at the latest design concepts for The Sill, the working title of the new £11.2million centre which is being steered by Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales).

The updated designs, revealed by award-winning Newcastle architects Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK) and refined after months of extensive consultation with the community, showcase a building that is both ‘inspired by the landscape and of the landscape’; shaped to reflect the undulating contours of the Whin Sill landscape and Hadrian’s Wall glacial lakes.

The concepts incorporate a palette of materials that will continue this natural design, including dry stone walls, heather thatch and its standout feature, the UK’s first green roof created from Northumberland’s rare Whin Sill grassland and the native plants found in Northumberland National Park – all of which was welcomed by the community.

Project director Stuart Evans said: “The recent public event gave us a great opportunity to share with the community the latest plans for The Sill, which they have already played a vital role in shaping. The team at JDDK have created an inspirational design concept for Northumberland’s new Landscape Discovery Centre, which has been brought to life by the exciting 3D footage and it was fantastic to see reactions to the animation.

“This is an exciting step forward for the project as we move into the next phase of the development. and the project gathers pace it was great to showcase how far we have come in the short space of time since we last met with the public.

“To date we talked to over 1,600 people about this proposal. We’re now looking to the next key milestone and really want to get as many people as possible involved in our plans for the development of The Sill’s activity programme. We’ve also got to raise the vital funds needed to make the project a reality and we really want to hear from anyone who is inspired by our vision to discuss how they can lend their support.”

At the event, The Sill project team gave an update on the pioneering move to create a standalone conservation project out of the green roof, which will form the centrepiece of the building, grown from a variety of rare native plant species from across the region.

Plans to make the roof accessible to all, with visitors able to walk on it and flat access provided for wheelchairs and pushchairs, were welcomed by the public and the concepts received widespread praise.

The development of the activity programme, which will be run and promoted from the new discovery centre, was also presented, with people encouraged to get involved in the pilot scheme. The team and Northumberland County Council are keen to also address current issues about highways safety along the busy Military Road.

Simon Ainley, head of capital fund-raising at YHA, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who came along to our latest consultation event – there was a great turnout and it was really exciting to showcase the evolution of the project as it builds momentum. The Sill is a truly innovative project which will transform how people experience, enjoy, understand and care for the landscape of the the North East’s special landscape areas like the National Park and beautiful coast. At YHA we’re committed to making a real difference to young people’s lives; something we feel this project will absolutely fulfil.

“We’re now looking to gather as much feedback as possible from people across the region and further afield, to tell us how they would like to get involved. It is our ambition to create a space which will really help to put the North East on the map and we want to hear from the people of the region who can help us get to our next key milestone.”

Alison Thornton-Sykes, principal architect at JDDK, added: “We have been working closely with the community and our partners to develop the design concepts for the new Landscape Discovery Centre further, whittled down to a preferred option, which we have taken forward. After an intensive process of refinement, it is very exciting to have been able to reveal the latest concepts.

“As part of our original design brief, we have incorporated learning facilities, a building integrating habitats, wildlife and people, as well as café, offices for local outdoor and recreational businesses and communal spaces and we are now working closely with the interpretation design team at Bright 3D as plans for the exhibition space are brought to life.

“It was great to take the designs back to the community and show them the animated fly-through for the first time. Seeing the footage offers a completely unique perspective on a design concept and gives it a real sense of reality; we’re delighted with the feedback we have received.”

Members of the public unable to attend the most recent consultation event are encouraged to visit The Sill website at www.thesill.org.uk to see the latest design concepts, fly-through and plans for the interpretation and activity programme. The Sill project team would like to hear from anyone who would like to contribute their ideas to its development. Visit the website or Facebook and Twitter forums @thesillproject to get in touch.

The development phase of The Sill project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA are seeking to secure an additional £3.7million in funding for the full project costs. People can support The Sill by volunteering, attending one of the project’s consultation events or making a donation towards the target.