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Raven Tower, Northumberland

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Newton Architects wins 2024 RIBA North East Small Project of the Year for its unique and imaginative holiday let for the adventurous in the grounds of Hesleyside Hall

Raven Tower.
Raven Tower. Credit: Neil Denham

2024 RIBA North East Award
2024 RIBA North East Small Project of the Year

Raven Tower, Northumberland
Newton Architects with s h e d for Hesleyside Huts
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 55.9m2

Raven Tower, in the grounds of the grade II listed Hesleyside Hall in the heart of the Northumberland National Park, offers unique and imaginative holiday accommodation to the adventurous. Hidden from the public highway with only glimpses of its fortified form as you follow the bend of the approaching road, it provides privacy and escapism to those wishing to explore this remote countryside. Hailing the history of the area’s fortified keeps known as ‘pele towers’, the building can be commended for its simplicity of concept and careful execution. The architects have skilfully brought this project to life, celebrating local and sustainable materials and craftsmanship within its dark and defensive form.

  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Jack Boothby
  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Jack Boothby
  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Jack Boothby
  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Neil Denham
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The unapologetic yet slender tower has successfully met the client’s aspiration to build a holiday accommodation unit for up to two people that recalls the local history of the Border conflicts and pele towers. Its elongated form is a result of the needs of the accommodation within, but respects its setting within the woodland. The external stone entrance staircase to the west, providing a much-needed lobby and boot room, further reflects the area’s now romanticised defensive architecture.

On arrival, you are led up the steps to a raised platform that provides a moment to look out over the surrounding landscape before entering the living area. Once inside, a south-facing external shutter opens to intimate views into the woodland. The compact accommodation, including kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom, is stacked over four levels, with a crafted internal stair acting as the Tower’s spine. Thoughtfully integrated joinery is provided at each level to serve the day-to-day needs of the user within the modest footprint.

Triple-glazed windows are positioned to maximise the impact of views and light without excess. Arrow-slit windows provide glimpses of the landscaped grounds, designed in the 18th century by Capability Brown, as you advance up the internal stair. Larger windows have been placed to give a sense of immersion in woodland, the climax being a large rooflight over the bathroom that opens to the sky and treetops. 

  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Neil Denham
  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Neil Denham
  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Neil Denham
  • Raven Tower.
    Raven Tower. Credit: Neil Denham
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The main body of the Tower is formed of lightweight, airtight, prefabricated timber frame insulated to Passivhaus threshold fabric standards. This touches the ground only lightly, via drilled steel piles, to protect the surrounding tree roots. The desire to use local and sustainable materials and local craftsmanship on all aspects of the project is evident. The reuse of local stone and charred timber sourced in the UK are examples of the simplicity of materials applied to accomplish the concept. The external detailing, executed in a practical and thorough manner, enhances the minimalist form of the building.

The wider conservation impact of this project should also be celebrated. Over its anticipated 50-year design life, Raven Tower will play an essential role in providing the estate with the additional income needed to support the restoration of Hesleyside Hall and its grounds. A great example of the potential of small projects as a positive force within the built environment.

See the rest of the RIBA North East winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Green Roofing Structures

Structural engineer s h e d

Credit: Newton Architects with s h e d structural engineers
Credit: Newton Architects with s h e d structural engineers
Credit: Newton Architects with s h e d structural engineers
Credit: Newton Architects with s h e d structural engineers
Credit: Newton Architects with s h e d structural engineers
Credit: Newton Architects with s h e d structural engineers

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