Building blocks for their futures

Testing ground workshop

02 November 2012

A unique workshop that offered aspiring architects the chance to ‘test’ their future career proved so popular that double the number of expected applicants applied.

Picture shows from l to r: Will Pattison (18, Ponteland High School), Denis Hackett (17, St Leonard′s Catholic School, Durham), Beth Dutson (17, Queen Elisabeth Grammar School, Penrith), James Ophelia (17, Churchill Community College, Wallsend), and Brodie Scott (17, St Cuthbert’s High School, Newcastle). 

The Testing Ground workshop, set in the inspirational environment of Kielder Water & Forest Park and aimed at students from Years 12 and 13 who are considering studying architecture, hoped to attract 18 pupils yet over double that amount applied.

The enthusiasm for the subject has led to organiser, the award-winning Kielder Art & Architecture programme, already planning to run another course in summer 2013.

Peter Sharpe, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust’s art and architecture curator, who ran the free workshops supported by staff and students at Newcastle University School of Architecture and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said: “It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this so we were really overwhelmed with the encouraging response.

“For those considering a career in architecture, it’s difficult to know whether that field of study is right for you or not because it’s not a subject that is taught in schools. The three day workshop, setting in the stunning Kielder environment and in Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, helps pre-university teens to learn about the process of developing architectural ideas and how to put them into practice.”

Sixteen and seventeen year old students from schools across the northeast of England have enjoyed the three day ‘design and make’ workshop which allowed them to explore Kielder’s landscape and its architectural works, understand design briefs, develop concept proposals and make their own architectural installations.

James Ophelia, 17, from Churchill Community College in Wallsend, said: "I thought we′d be doing things I′ve done before, but it’s been completely different, it′s more fun, more interactive. We went to Kielder, we saw a problem, and we′re trying to fix that problem. It′s been more of a real life experience."

Beth Dutson, 17, from Queen Elisabeth Grammar School in Penrith, added: “We took our inspiration from the site where the shelter 55/02 is. We were looking at the views from the structure and the way that the shelter is brightly coloured and a big contrast to the trees and the forest, thinking a bit more about the context and not just the building. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been nice to see something right through from designing it and then making it, and then seeing in situ.”

Kielder Water & Forest Park has become the largest open air art and architecture gallery in the country and the Kielder Art & Architecture programme has won many awards including RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architecture) Awards for Kielder Observatory and Kielder Belvedere.

Kielder Water & Forest Park, which spans 250 square miles, is home to the largest forest in England and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe. It was voted the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. For more information go to

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For media information contact Philippa Clark, communications advisor (Kielder Water & Forest Park), on 0191 301 5538, 07970 897 756 or  

Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working to develop the Park as an inspirational place. It aims to improve economic, social and environmental sustainability, provide public recreation and leisure facilities, facilitate education in all aspects of the natural environment and advance art and architecture in the Park. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities.

Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.

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