Testing Ground

Newcastle University, Northumberland, 2018


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Graham Farmer, Peter Sharpe     Download Original

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Testing Ground is an ongoing programme of permanent self-build projects situated within the contrasting landscapes of the Northumberland National Park and the Kielder Forest Park.

Each year a group of MArch architecture students from Newcastle University works closely with a live client to design, procure and construct a small-scale structure or building. Testing Ground projects are developed within a wider framework of environmental and social sustainability and seek to involve local communities and groups within the design and development process.

The programme actively supports local initiatives that aim to conserve, enhance and celebrate the unique character of the Northumberland landscape and ecology while also seeking to build the future resilience of its use, heritage and identity.

The Bakethin Wildlife Hide is part of the HLF ‘Living Wild’ project and provides a fully accessible public hide comprising of two interconnected timber-framed hexagonal pods, clad in charred larch and topped with a moss roof. The ‘lake’ pod focuses on bird watching and an osprey nesting site on a nearby island and the ‘forest’ pod provides vertical views from forest floor to high canopy allowing views of numerous forest species including red squirrels.

The Calvert Shelter was developed with the Calvert Trust, an organisation that challenges mainstream perceptions of disability and aims to engage all of its guests with the Northumberland landscape and outdoor activities. The partly digitally fabricated timber structure provides a viewing point and shelter for younger visitors using the Trust’s popular zip line.

The Blakehope Nick Viewing Platform is part of the wider Revitalising Redesdale HLF project and is sited on the threshold between the heather moorland of the Kielder uplands and the intensively managed Kielder Forest. A series of twisting Larch hexagonal portal frames define views of the contrasting landscapes and capture a spectacular view of the Kielder Valley.


  • Begun: Dec 2016
  • Completed: Dec 2018
  • Sector: Sports and leisure
  • Total cost: £65,000
  • Funding: Heritage Lottery Fund, Newcastle University
  • Procurement: Self Build
  • Address: Kielder, Northumberland, United Kingdom