2018

RIBA NE Award for The Sill

The team behind Northumberland National Park Authority’s The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre at Once Brewed enjoyed a successful RIBA NE Awards event, held at The Museum Gardens, York on Thursday 24 May, winning the prestigious RIBA North East Award for 2018.

Developed with funding from the Heritage Lottery fund, The Sill, which opened to the public on July 29th 2017 and houses an 86 bed Youth Hostel, welcomed its 100,000th visitor on the 8th of March this year, beating Northumberland National Park Authority’s projections by achieving its expected annual visitor numbers some five months ahead of schedule, with arguably some of the busiest months still to come.

The judges’ report read, “The scheme celebrates the landscape of the region in a harmonious building that seems to spring from the landscape. Its long sweeping roof leads the visitor from ground level up to the apex of the building where a platform provides views of the Northumberland landscape. The planting on the roof is particularly successful, using local grassland mixes to support local species and the use of locally quarried stone walls sets the building successfully within its landscape.”

“The long-distance views onto the scheme from Hadrian’s Wall are particularly well considered as the mass of the building sinks into the hillside and these roofs take on the form of a series of low scale farm buildings.”

“The site sits within the World Heritage site and Northumberland National Park and extensive community and school engagement was carried out to develop the brief and embed the scheme in the local community. A key requirement that came from this was the sustainability brief that includes a fabric first passive solar design approach with improved insulation and good airtightness levels, green roofs, photovoltaics, and solar thermal panels that reduce the buildings energy demands. The photovoltaic canopy support along with natural stack ventilation through high level windows acts to control overheating.”

“The approach to the building leads visitors to the curving glass façade oversailed by a canopy of photovoltaic panels. Once inside, the building opens out through a series of exhibition spaces, classrooms and social areas, all with views to the landscape beyond. The route then takes visitors out and along a 1 in 21 accessible path over the roof of the building. Enabling wheelchair users to enjoy the countryside was a fundamental requirement of the brief.”

“The judges praised the way the building interacts with the landscape and respects the historic setting. It stimulates and delights users of all ages and has already exceeded its visitor and client’s expectations.”

JDDK Project Architect, Alison Thornton-Sykes commented, “The whole team are absolutely delighted to have won this prestigious award. It’s an accolade by fellow architects to the design and construction of not only the actual building but also the whole concept of the Landscape Discovery Centre.”

Tony Gates, Chief Executive, Northumberland National Park Authority, added, “Northumberland National Park Authority is absolutely delighted that The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre has been judged worthy of a RIBA Award.  This is a landmark project for the UK.”

“Building a national centre in a National Park and a World Heritage Site, with the National Park Authority as the client, was always going to be a challenge. We needed a building which not only respected the landscape but enhanced it, and it is great to see that what we have achieved through this landmark building has been recognised.”

“In JDDK Ltd, we could not have had a better architect.  Our architect, Alison Thornton-Sykes, engaged with us as the client, the local community and our many partners right from the outset and has delivered a building which we are all genuinely very proud of.  Conceived, designed and built in the North East we all have a lot to shout about.”

“A big thank you is also due to Sir Robert McAlpine, who constructed The Sill, and of course to lottery players who provided a large part of the funding to make it happen.”

“We are delighted to have welcomed over 135,000 visitors to The Sill since August last year. Our visitors are very taken with the innovative design and are particularly interested in how the building takes its design and materials from the surrounding landscape. With visitors ranging from school groups learning in our classrooms, to three or four generations of one family enjoying our accessible roof walk together, The Sill has provided the perfect gateway to engage with our unique landscape.”

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