Newcastle University’s own School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape has planned and built “The Nick”, a public piece of architecture situated in Northumberland National Park.
Starting work in 2018, seven Newcastle students began embarking on the plans to build this piece. They worked with the Park’s Department Trust to build a structure that provides shelter within the park for visitors, creating a seating area to encourage people to sit and take in the beautiful views of the park. One of its aims was for the product to be “tactile”, “bringing out the child in everyone and inspiring joy.”
The structure gives various views on the landscape, being situated at the highest point of Forest Drive. It consists of pentagons that are aimed to capture varying parts of the landscape. It was intended to connect the two valleys of Byrness and Kielder, illustrating how their communities are linked. In the past, pastoral farmers and hardy foresters from both communities have worked up here, and so it is testament to their connection.
The structure is built from larch, with this type of wood coming from just over the border at Scotland. It is a very distinctive tree, and is the perfect choice for a structure that needs to withstand the exposure and climate at the highest point on the Forest Drive, especially with the blustery Newcastle winters that we experience here!
The head of architecture at Newcastle University, Graham Farmer, says that it is “both engaging and practical”, not only providing views but also providing comfort. The architectural team from Newcastle began to build much of the structure in the university in the autumn months, and then their products were moved to the park.
The project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with support from James Christopher Consulting and D.G. Walton and Son. It is particularly interesting that the project has just been finished, as it fits in with the centenary of ‘Forestry England’, who also helped to fund the project alongside the Heritage Fund. Alex MacLennan, the Recreation and Public Affairs Manager for Forestry England in the North East comments that works to “enhance the wonderful surroundings of the Park through art and architecture.” It combines architecture with nature, representing the collaboration of students with representatives of the park, and its beauty is proof of the hard work and dedication of the students involved.