High-level design review commends The Sill’s latest proposals

Latest design concepts and plans for The Sill, a new £10.5million Landscape Discovery Centre and Youth Hostel in Northumberland National Park, have achieved high-level backing from a renowned peer architect Design Review exercise held through the North East Design Review and Enabling Service (NE-DRES).

A report published by NE-DRES following the review applauded the project and design team from Northumberland National Park Authority, YHA (England and Wales) and architects, Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK). In the report, the Panel noted:

“We welcome this project being brought forward for Review and applaud the Client for the positive, rigorous and imaginative process that has been brought to bear to develop the brief and select the design team.”

As the scheme to transform the existing Youth Hostel and visitor centre at the current Once Brewed site gathers pace, feedback from the Design Review welcomed the team’s commitment to gathering public opinion, which has formed an integral part of the process to date. The review panel also shared a strong preference for Option ‘A’ design concepts produced to showcase a building that will become part of the National Park landscape, echoing the outcome of initial partner and public consultations.

As a building designed to become part of the landscape, feedback from the panel also included a recommendation for the project team to take time to capture a preference for local materials to be used in the construction phase. Specific points raised to support this, include:

An endorsement of the design approach to respond to the landscape, without overly hiding the building, celebrating the architecture of the new facility.

Use of accessible turf roofs (potentially Whin vegetation) to allow visitors to explore the building itself to signify its presence.

The importance of allowing the design team the time and creative freedom to hone the design at this stage.

Consisting of a pool of professionals with a diverse range of skills including architects, town planners, landscape architects, engineers and sustainability experts, the review panel has a regional remit intended to help raise design aspirations and encourage the adoption of more consistent design standards across the North East. Further recommendations from the panel included ensuring visibility from the road whilst screening the service area and the report stressed the importance of resolving highways issues around the busy Military Road. The panel also welcomed the team’s strong ambitions for the development’s sustainability credentials.

Stuart Evans, Project Director at Northumberland National Park Authority, said:

“The results of the Design Review have given us much cause for celebration at this stage of the project and were overwhelmingly positive. Engaging the Design Review panel in The Sill’s aspirations and receiving such a high-level backing, is an excellent step forward as we prepare to put in our bid for Round 2 Heritage Lottery Funding. Most reassuring is the fact that the results of the grassroots local community consultation chime directly with the more top-down peer review from the architect’s profession.”

Local Councillor and Sill Project Board member Alan Sharp commented, said:

“The Design Review, public consultation events and our own extensive planning have also flagged the importance of highways management around the already busy and potentially dangerous fast traffic on the Military Road. Safety of visitors and school groups in particular is our key priority, I am pleased that we have moved swiftly to work jointly with Northumberland County Council to resolve traffic management issues in this area which quite frankly should have been addressed several years ago.”

The purpose of the North East Design Review and Enabling Service is to achieve high design quality in the built environment in the region by offering expert, constructive, impartial advice on the architectural, landscape and urban design aspects and on sustainability impacts, of master plans and development proposals.

Jake Chalmers, Director of Property at YHA, said:

“Achieving backing from the recent Design Review will play an integral part in driving The Sill project forward. As an organisation, we have had a presence at the Once Brewed site since 1934 and in creating a new Landscape Discovery Centre, we hope to inspire and transform the ways in which people understand, access and enjoy the unspoilt natural and cultural landscapes of Northumberland National Park and beyond. Showcasing our offer to the Design Review and gaining their backing and recommendations for what we are hoping to achieve, represents a substantial breakthrough for the project.”

The development phase of The Sill project has been made possible thanks to funding from The Heritage Lottery fund (HLF). As plans move forward, the design team at JDDK are now planning to bring together all recommendations and insights following the Design Review, public and partner consultations, to develop the design concepts to the final stage, ahead of the Round 2 HLF bid later this year.

Alison Thornton-Sykes, Principal Architect at JDDK, said:

“The Design Review marks a significant milestone for the project and gives us a real opportunity to move the design process to the next stage. We are now looking forward to incorporating the feedback we have gathered and taking time to further hone the designs. It is of great importance to us to ensure that the final proposal we submit matches the expectation of a nationally significant and unique Landscape Discovery Centre, the stunning natural environment of Northumberland National Park and the needs of the community and visitors from further afield.”

Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA are seeking to secure an additional £3million in funding for the full project costs and to make their vision for The Sill a reality, the project needs your support. You can support The Sill by volunteering, attending one of the project’s consultation events or making a donation towards the £3million target.

For more information about The Sill and the upcoming events, visit www.thesill.org.uk, find The Sill on Facebook or follow The Sill on Twitter @thesillproject