Designing The Sill

"Inspired by the landscape and of the landscape": The landmark building design evolves

Named after the Great Whin Sill bedrock which crosses the rugged landscape of Northumberland National Park, The Sill will create a new Landscape Discovery Centre and Youth Hostel at Once Brewed. The project will transform how people engage with, experience and learn about landscapes and conservation, and aims to encourage visitors from all backgrounds to discover the inspiring landscapes and heritage of Northumberland National Park and beyond.

Architects' vision of The Sill

To bring this vision to life, award-winning architectural practice Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall Ltd were earlier this year selected by Northumberland National Park and the Youth Hostels Association to explore concepts for the new multi-million pound landmark building, which will replace the existing outdated facilities at Once Brewed near Steel Rigg on Hadrian's Wall.

The concept for the new emblematic building is that it will characterise the distinctiveness of Northumberland National Park by reflecting the landscape in its shapes and palette of materials, "inspired by the landscape and of the landscape".

Final design concepts revealed for The Sill

After months of extensive public consultation and refinement, The Sill project and design team is delighted to announce the final design concepts for Northumberland's new Landscape Discovery Centre; a stunning example of participative design.

Side elevation design

With some 1,700 people inputting their ideas and feedback, the designs have been refined in consultation with partners, the public and expert review. The resulting proposal is for an emblematic building shaped to reflect the undulating contours of the Whin Sill landscape and, with roof lights echoing Hadrian's Wall glacial lakes. The latest concepts incorporate a palette of materials that reflect the natural landscape of the surrounding area, from dry stone walling to its standout feature, the UK's first 'Whin vegetation roof' created from Northumberland's rare Whin Sill grassland and native plants found in Northumberland National Park.

Side elevation design
View from the south east showing the main visitor entrance

Designed in consultation with members of the community and supported by high-level peer review, Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK) took all feedback into the design process to produce two updated design concepts and subsequent site plans, which were released to the public in summer 2013. Extensive public input highlighted the importance of a building that sits sympathetically in the landscape and the final designs are reflective of this concept 'inspired by the landscape and of the landscape.' The innovative Whin vegetation, which will contain a variety of the rare plant species found in Northumberland National Park, will transform the visitor experience. This centrepiece of the building will be accessible to all, with visitors able to walk on the roof with flat access for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and explore at close quarters the rare wildlife of the Northumbrian landscape, whilst taking in stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

The 'Whin vegetation roof' project represents a pioneering move to create a roof structure engineered out of this rare plant material, and as the first of its kind to be piloted in the country, this ground-breaking initiative will inspire visitors to experience, enjoy, understand and care for the landscape for generations to come. Trials of the plants to be grown on the Whin vegetation roof are soon to start at Once Brewed and Walltown, and will be open to the public to view.

View from the north east showing first floor café with panoramic views

The final design concepts will soon be taken into the planning phase of the project, with a planning application due to be submitted early in 2014. This marks another exciting step forward for the project as a whole.

An innovation in sustainable design

The Sill will become an innovation in responsible, sustainable design – from its biomass boiler to a spacious photovoltaic canopy, the building will be constructed to high environmental standards. Its overarching aim is to create a space which will transform how people experience, enjoy, understand and care for the landscape; its high standards in building sustainability and environmental excellence will set the model for the future.

As part of the original design brief, JDDK have incorporated learning facilities, modern, group-friendly accommodation, conference, exhibition and retail amenities, as well as a local produce café and communal spaces into the design. As the project moves forward, the team are working closely with the interpretation designers at Bright 3D as plans for the exhibition space are brought to life. This will be an innovative, vibrant space, allowing visitors to explore all aspects of landscape. Art and external play spaces will make The Sill an exciting place for visitors to start a discovery of the landscape of Northumberland and beyond. The overarching theme for the exhibition space is 'hidden in plain view' and will explore a variety of different aspects of the landscape. The centre will also house superfast broadband, five external activity areas, serviced office accommodation for outdoor activity businesses and areas for retail of local produce.  

A flagship centre of discovery, The Sill will become a touchpoint for visitors from across the UK and further afield, integrating habitats, wildlife and people into design, development and management of the site.

We would like to thank you for your many contributions to this exciting design process and would love to hear your feedback on the final design concepts, which you have helped to shape. 

Anyone interested in supporting The Sill can do so by volunteering, attending our events, making a donation toward the £3.7m funding target or contributing toward the development of The Sill's activity programme. 

If you are interested in finding out more about The Sill, sign up to our newsletter, visit our events section, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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           The Sill: Essential Reading

               Planning Application Summary

               Planning Statement

               Business Case

               Joint Servicing Strategy

               Visitor Facing Concept

               Visitor Displacement Plan

               Consultation Report

               Consultation Appendices

               Design and Access

               The Sill Transport Assessment

               The Sill Travel Plan

               Wider Transport Study

               Economic Impact Assessment 2008 

               Economic Impact Assessment 2013

               Economic Impact Assessment 2014 

               Habitat Survey 

               Bat Survey 2013

               Bat Survey 2007

               Bat Survey 2014

               Archaeological Assessment

               Flood Risk Assessment

               Drainage Assessment

               Ground Investigation

               Tree Report

               Geophysical Survey

               Landscape Visual Impact Assessment

               Lighting Assessment

               Noise Impact Assessment

               Lighting Impact Assessment

               Building Services Scheme Design

               Energy Strategy

               Sustainability Strategy

               Topographical Survey

               Site Waste Management Plan