The Sill Landscape Discovery Centre at Once Brewed, Northumberland

The £11.2m building rises seamlessly out of the natural landscape and features an innovative, publicly accessible roof made from whin vegetation – some of the rare species that grow in the Northumbrian landscape. Other ‘green’ aspects of the design include local woodchip heating, photovoltaic canopies and solar water heating whilst the centre will house education facilities, superfast broadband, five external activity areas, serviced office accommodation for outdoor activity businesses, areas for the sale of local products and a local produce cafe.

The Sill’s vision is to create a hub which will open up the landscape of the whole of Northumberland National Park and offer substantial economic benefits to the region, with a £3.35m contribution predicted in its first year as it acts as a shop window for the rural businesses in and around the park.

Project Architect, Alison Thornton-Sykes, said, “The Sill will characterise the distinctiveness of Northumberland National Park by reflecting the landscape of Northumberland National Park – our brief has always been to design a building ‘inspired by the landscape and of the landscape’ – this is something we’ve worked hard to achieve with input from Glen Kemp Landscape Architects and Cundall as Planning Consultants and feel that the balance has been carefully struck. We have been working alongside interpretation designers Bright 3D, who have been developing the designs for the exhibition space and interpretation which we are also excited to see making significant progress.

The brief asked for: design by community engagement; a landmark building which will draw people from across the country and Europe to visit the new centre; achieve a building with BREEAM excellence; and gain support from peers via the North East Design Review. The new building needed to be low cost whilst its main aim is to provide an attractive building to more than double visitor numbers, triple average dwell times and produce much higher income earning facilities. The overall aim is to create a stunning building to inspire people to visit and then go on to learn about and discover their landscapes.