Northumberland National Park and the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) have appointed award winning Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall Architects to explore initial concepts for ‘The Sill’, a new visitor experience and youth hostel which will replace the existing 1960s facilities at Once Brewed near Steel Rigg on Hadrian’s Wall.
Named after the Great Whin Sill bedrock on which much of the rugged Northumbrian landscape sits, ‘The Sill’ aims to encourage more visitors from all backgrounds to discover the inspiring landscapes and heritage of Northumberland National Park, from the dramatic parts of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, all the way to the Cheviot Hills bordering Scotland.
The building will offer affordable accommodation and social spaces for young and old to meet and mix, as well as educational and learning opportunities and activities for all. It will serve as a hub from which people can explore more of the 400sq miles of Northumberland National Park, from stargazing and discovering rare flora and fauna, to learning more about traditional skills such as dry stonewalling and hedgerow laying.
Importantly, the scheme aims to significantly boost the local economy by bringing in millions of pounds of additional tourism spend and creating the equivalent of 60 additional full-time jobs once the centre is up and running.
The Sill, working in partnership with local communities and businesses, will offer all sorts of activities for people to go out and explore Northumberland’s inspiring and beautiful landscapes including
local attractions, retail and hospitality services, as well as selling local produce and products. The economy is at the heart of the project and during the design and build phases 75 people will be offered job training opportunities and apprenticeships.
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “The building itself will offer a fantastic educational asset and resource for the North East and UK as a whole, as well as very real gains in terms of attracting visitor numbers and spend, creating new jobs and boosting the local economy. Our aim is nothing short of transforming how people engage with landscapes.”
The initial design concepts focus heavily on sustainability and draw inspiration from the stunning local landscape, incorporating locally sourced materials, heather thatched pitched roofs and whinstone walls. The north side of the building will incorporate a café and retail spaces, as well as rooftop viewing galleries.
The development phase of the project has been made possible through funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Over the next 10 months Northumberland National Park will undertake extensive consultation with the local community, gaining their views on the plans and feeding into the design and build process as well as the types of activities they would like to see the facility host, before a final design solution is submitted for Round 2 Heritage Lottery Funding in December 2013.
Northumberland National Park has also appointed Gardiner & Theobald LLP as Project Managers/QS, Halcrow Group Ltd as Building Services and Sustainability consultants and Patrick Parsons as Civil and Structural Engineers.