5 August 2013

Northumbria University architectural students inspired by £10.5m The Sill Project

Two architecture students from Northumbria University have won a coveted prize for their response to a high profile design brief set by Northumberland National Park in conjunction with award winning Newcastle based architects Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK).

Students studying on Northumbria University's Architecture programme were asked to respond to an adapted version of the original design brief provided by Northumberland National Park for the £10.5m Sill project as part of the course's major studio project. An alternative brief asked them to look at designs for a building at Ad Gefrin, also within Northumberland National Park.

Student Simon Ward won The Sill Site Prize for his work based around the language of the Roman wall, whilst the Alternative Site Prize went to Louisa Heyworth for her historically-informed architectural designs at Ad Gefrin.

Simon Ward and Georgia Villalobos

The student's initial design concepts were shortlisted for the award by The Sill's Learning and Participation Officer Georgia Villalobos alongside Ben Elliott, Director of Architecture at Northumbria University. Alison Thornton-Sykes, Principal Designer at JDDK, the practice retained by Northumberland National Park to develop the actual design concepts for The Sill, then selected the final two winning designs.

Louisa said, "Winning the award gave me so much confidence as there was some incredible work nominated. It felt great to be recognised for a project that I thoroughly enjoyed. The brief gave us so much scope to explore the sites history and develop a scheme that was closely linked to the heritage of the area. Working on this brief gave me the opportunity to learn valuable new skills and techniques which will be useful in my future architecture career."

Louisa Heyworth with Georgia Villalobos

Alison said; "There's nothing like hands on experience and the Sill site presents a really interesting brief for the students to respond to. The Once Brewed site where the current YHA Youth Hostel sits is not a typical location, set in the heart of Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site, which is wild and rugged, plus the marrying of accommodation with exhibition and interactive learning facilities requires some consideration.

"Both student's created a strong concept rigorously carried through from their historic and site analysis to their designs. As a result, the designs respond well to their sites and demonstrate a good understanding of the brief and an appropriate use of materials."

In reality, the actual Sill building is currently in the development phase, following public consultation on designs by JDDK which are now being prepared for submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund with the aim of securing funding for the build phase of the project. Northumberland National Park is also trialling activities with schools and education establishments and seeking feedback from teachers on the types of activities they would like to see facilitated at the building.

Northumberland National Park Learning and Participation Officer, Georgia Villalobos, said; "The Sill project is all about inspiring young people of all ages to explore, experiment and learn about the unique landscape of Northumberland. This project allowed them to do that within the context of a genuine design brief. The aim of the NNPA sponsorship of this award is to assist students in developing practical skills which will aid them not only in their studies, but in their future careers. Once built, the Sill will provide a hub from which young people, including university students, can explore the wider National Park and develop academic and life skills across a range of disciplines."

The Sill will become a hub which will welcome new visitors, offer extensive learning and participation activities and inspire current and future generations to get out and explore the rest of the park, enjoying and conserving the incredible natural landscape. It will replace the existing 1960s visitor centre and Youth Hostel at Once Brewed at the heart of the Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site and as an emblematic building and centre of discovery that will become part of the local community.

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 support. People can do so by volunteering or making a donation towards the £3million target.

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For further information about Northumbria University's Architecture programme, visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/abe

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