Kielder′s Dark Skies are hotting up

Th Warm Room

17 June 2015

Stargazing in one of the world′s largest Dark Sky Parks has hotted up thanks to a new art and architecture project.

Picture shows: The Warm Room at Kielder Campsite (photo courtesy of Graham Farmer, Newcastle University)

The Warm Room, a contemporary timber structure, has opened at Kielder Campsite in Northumberland for visitors to enjoy as part of their stargazing experience.

The shelter, which can accommodate up to 20 people, was designed and built by students at Newcastle University’s School of Architecture in partnership with Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust’s Art & Architecture programme and local residents.

It provides a sheltered space and equipment charging point for stargazers who take part in overnight star camps, as well as a venue for community meetings, educational events and stargazing seminars. Campers can also make use of a sheltered external cooking area.

Peter Sharpe, Kielder Art & Architecture curator, said: “Kielder Water & Forest Park has become a hot spot for astro-tourism, attracting amateur astronomers from across the country so it’s important we give people the best visitor experience and a network of opportunities to enjoy our dark skies.

“This project is another great example of partnership working and it’s fantastic that the students have really listened and engaged with the community, creating a unique venue to help benefit those who are viewing the stars.”

The Warm Room is the result of an ongoing collaboration between Newcastle University’s School of Architecture and Kielder Art & Architecture′s Testing Ground programme, and follows the success of the Stargazing Pavilion constructed at Stonehaugh last year by a similar group of students.

Their latest efforts add to the Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park designation, awarded to an area of 580 square miles covering Kielder Water & Forest Park and Northumberland National Park in December 2013.

Graham Farmer, Director of Architecture at Newcastle University, said: “The opportunity to work directly with a rural community has been an invaluable experience for the students and they have gained numerous transferable skills, from dealing with statutory bodies, to managing time and cost, as well as actually constructing one of their own designs.

“Projects of this nature are incredibly hard work, but immensely rewarding for all involved. The students demonstrated a real commitment to, and enthusiasm for the Warm Room and worked in all weathers to ensure it’s successful completion.”

Pippa Ramsay, one of the students involved said; “The project in Kielder gave a unique opportunity to get involved with every aspect of design. It is rare that architects get to build their own buildings. This was an incredible experience which had taught me to appreciate and enjoy the different sides to architecture.”

Student Phil Morris added; “Having the opportunity to design and self-build a piece of real architecture from sketch to completion is an unusual accolade for any architect, it has been a fantastic achievement and seeing the space being used and improve the site is very rewarding.”

The Warm Room is part of the wider *Animating Dark Skies programme, which is supported by The Rural Development Programme for England, for which DEFRA is the Managing Authority, part financed by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.

For more information, contact Janine Scott (Kielder Water & Forest Park) on 0191 301 6713.

The Warm Room project began in October 2014 when the Newcastle University’s School of Architecture students produced a number of design proposals and then presented them to the community. Following the selection of a preferred option the students worked with residents to develop the design before submitting a planning application. The 38m2 timber-framed structure was then part prefabricated in the School with site-based works commencing in early February 2015.

The Warm Room is a reinterpretation of the simple agricultural buildings of the region. It is clad with larch and lined with birch plywood, with two 3 metre-high windows allowing wonderful views of the Kielder landscape and sky. The well-sealed and insulated construction is designed so that the space can be heated by solar energy, occupants and light fittings without the need for additional energy inputs.

The Warm Room is the result of an ongoing collaboration between Newcastle University’s School of Architecture and Kielder Art & Architecture′s Testing Ground programme, and follows the success of the Stargazing Pavilion constructed at Stonehaugh last year by a similar group of students.

Both the Warm Room and Stargazing Pavilion, part of Kielder Art & Architecture′s Testing Ground programme, aim to consider the broader ecology of the building process and explore social sustainability, by working directly with communities, using local expertise or providing local training opportunities whilst also adding a direct social and economic benefit to remote rural communities.

Kielder Water and 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 awarded the number one tourism experience in England by Visit England 2013, and the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. For more information see

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, Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society 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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