Architecture award for island wildlife centre

Schoolchildren during a visit to Window on Wild Lindisfarne.
Schoolchildren during a visit to Window on Wild Lindisfarne.

A building offering views onto one of north Northumberland’s best wildlife habitats is one of five in the North East which won prestigious awards last night.

Window on Wild Lindisfarne received a RIBA North East Regional Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects at an awards ceremony held at the Stephenson Works in Newcastle, in recognition of its architectural excellence.

Peter Buchan, chairman of the RIBA North East Regional Council, said: “For half-a-century, RIBA awards have provided a benchmark for excellence in architecture. Sometimes this excellence is demonstrated in big landmark buildings, but often it is in the passionate execution of the modest and the day-to-day, in ways which touch upon and enhance the lives of many. This year’s North East Regional awards are no exception, as can be seen from the variety and quality of our winning buildings.”

The building is described as follows in the awards citation:

The pedestrian route to Lindisfarne Castle from the main settlement on Holy Island and its priory ruins focuses on the castle as it crosses wetlands and sea edge. The settlement dribbled out along this route with small a lifeguard station and even smaller and undistinguished pump house.

Window on Wild has been sited to provide a more positive conclusion to this and to focus visitors’ attention on the rich wildlife and wildlife habitats they have in the past passed almost unconsciously on their way to the Castle.

The building is very simply and clearly crafted to provide space for groups to gather and then to lead them through a short sequence of spaces to a broad sheltered view over the wetlands and their often teeming birdlife.

The building breaks through the stone of the wetland boundary wall and continues beyond it as a distinct and contemporary reinterpretation of the wall. A sequence of planes shapes and directs the visitor’s movement through the building, steering them from dark to the light and wonderful open views over the wetland. Slots in the walls frame views to the Castle and to a lookout tower which was built in a related contract.

The building is topped by a very thinly expressed green roof formed from soil excavated for the development and which has self-seeded. This is an exquisite and delicate building carefully integrated into a truly exceptional landscape and historic setting.