Castle Hub brief to designers

Application information




Design Brief

Castle Hub


A design project to create a dedicated social hub for mountain bikers/gravel bikers/road bikers at Kielder Castle in Northumberland



1. Overview

Kielder Water & Forest Park (KW&FP) is home to a unique collection of visual art and architecture that responds to the scale and complexity of its unique environment and the area's varied and fascinating history. Since 1995, over 60 projects, events or proposals have been commissioned, with 28 pieces currently available to visit, set within an area of approximately 16 square miles. These works are accessible to all visitors and are located at visitor centres, along the Lakeside Way multi-user track, and at sites within the forest.


In recent years many commissions have been developed to support the capital development plans of Kielder-based organisations such as the Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water, Kielder Observatory, and the Calvert Trust Kielder. These include as the Lakeside Way shelters, the Observatory itself, and recreational facilities at both Kielder Castle and Kielder Waterside.

See for more information.


Kielder Art & Architecture (KA&A) is the commissioning programme of the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust (KW&FPDT), a trust that represents the collective interests of its membership organisations, all of which have a vested interest in the development and management of the Park.

KW&FPDT members are: Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water, Calvert Trust Kielder, Northumberland National Park Authority, Northumberland County Council and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society.

Kielder Art & Architecture is supported by funding from Arts Council England.



2. Context

Kielder Castle was built in 1775 as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland. It is a Grade 2 listed building and an important heritage asset within Kielder Water & Forest Park.  However, it is in a certain state of disrepair with some parts of the upper floors considered to be derelict. Part of the ground floor currently houses a small cafe and an unmanned information hub.

It is no longer viable for the Forestry Commission (FC) to continue running the building in its current form and a significant strategic change is desperately needed.

FC is developing a business model to invest in and operate a café and accommodation offer from Kielder Castle. They are exploring concepts around an outdoor adventure retreat, making an interesting link with the heritage of the building and its recreational relationship with the landscape around it – from the Duke’s hunting to today’s mountain biking – it will be a modern iteration of the Castle’s original purpose as a retreat for adventures in and around Kielder.

With the current trails at Kielder, mountain bikers are a key audience for this vision, and FC want a space for riders to socialise, share stories, admire bikes, and compare notes in an environment that echoes their vibe and passion for the outdoors.

Accommodation, a further element of the overall plans that falls outside the scope of this brief, will be basic but of quality, enabling groups of mountain bikers, wildlife watchers, hikers, dark sky hunters or family explorers to make the most of their visit to Kielder.


3. The commission

Drawing inspiration from the success of cycling and mountain biking over recent years, cycling aficionados are going to get their own dedicated rest and recuperation hub within Kielder Castle. This space will occupy an unused ground floor wing of the Castle that currently exhibits the rugged stripped back quality common to many of the building’s lesser-used areas. While designers might choose to reflect these existing qualities, or propose a completely new feel for the space, the end result needs to provide a place where cyclists of all types will feel comfortable relaxing and sharing their stories while enjoying good food from the café next door.

A plan of the available space and further background information are available. Please see Note 11 below.

We are open to the use of any media so long as it can be shown that the selection criteria can be met (see below).

We are seeking an imaginative designer/design team to drive this unusual and unique project that will also inform and help guide FC’s visitor-focused thinking for Kielder over the next 10 years. 

The project will be split into 2 phases. 


Phase 1

For this initial phase we are seeking to identify and select a designer/design team who exhibits the creative skills we are looking for. They will provide a vision for the project and help us understand its potential delivery costs.

For Phase 1, shortlisted designers will be asked to generate:

1. A visualisation/s of the creative concept that effectively communicates the designer’s vision to the steering group.

2. An outline budget that helps us to understand the likely delivery costs.


Phase 2 (N.B. beyond the scope of this initial phase)

The selected designer/design team will work with FC to develop their ideas to a detailed and costed design. We expect the designer to be involved in the project delivery through to completion.


4. Selection panel

The selection panel will comprise of: Kevin May Forest Management Director – North England Forest District – Forestry Commission; Lynn Turner Director, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust; Hazel Stone – Arts Development Manager – North England Forest District - Forestry Commission; Peter Sharpe Kielder Art & Architecture Curator The panel will select the chosen designer from the expressions of interest received and the subsequent interview process.


5. Realisation

The initial part of the project will be delivered by KA&A working closely with the Forestry Commission. Kielder Art & Architecture Curator Peter Sharpe and Arts Development Manager – North England Forest District - Forestry Commission Hazel Stone will also provide on-going curatorial support to the chosen designer during the development and delivery of the commission.

The timescale for delivery is subject to the securing of funding within the Forestry Commission and planning permission (if required).


6. Selection process

Designers interested in being considered for the project should send in an initial Expression of Interest (EOI). See below 10. ‘What to do next’ for details.

The selection panel will choose 2 designers/design teams to develop their ideas to a more detailed proposal and will pay each a fee of £1250 to do so. During this stage designers will have an opportunity to visit the site and meet the curator and other staff who will be able to provide more information about the park and the project.

The outcomes will be expressed as:

1. A visualisation/s of the creative concept that effectively communicates the designer’s vision to the steering group.

2. An outline budget that helps us to understand the likely delivery costs.


£150 will be available towards the travel expenses of each shortlisted designer.

Shortlisted designers’ interviews, also available via Skype, will take place at the Forestry Commission’s office in Bellingham (NE48 2HP) on Thursday 19th April, and we expect the selected artist will be under contract by July 2018, subject to a funding decision from FC.


Selection will be based on the following criteria:

1. The quality of the proposed project and how well it relates to the overall aspirations as stated above in the brief, the context of the Castle, and more broadly, Kielder Water & Forest Park.

2. The durability of the realised project to fulfil its role with minimal maintenance over a 5-year period.


7. Equality and diversity

KW&FPDT recognises and values people’s differences and will assist them to use their talents to reach their full potential. The Trust will do all it can to ensure it recruits, trains and promotes people based on qualifications, experience and abilities for all roles within the organisation.

Despite the rural and remote nature of the area, KW&FPDT works closely with the Calvert Trust Kielder, an organisation that enables people of all abilities to actively engage with the landscape, and we can draw on their experience and wherewithal to assist practitioners requiring specialist support.


8. Realisation budget

Note that a realisation budget for the project is not indicated. You are encouraged to prioritise your ideas for the space, and if shortlisted, alongside the visualisation, you will be asked to provide and discuss an outline budget for implementing those ideas prior to the interview in April. This budget should include a designer’s fee to cover detailed design work and enable your involvement through to project completion. (This aspect can be discussed further at the site visit).

Final selection will be based on which designer’s ideas we feel best further our development thinking. Sufficient funding will then be sought to realise those ideas.


9. Timeline                                                                

Deadline for EOI - Midday, Monday 12 March        

Designers shortlisted and informed - w/c 19 March    

Selected designers opportunity to visit Kielder - Thursday 29 March (provisional)

Designer’s proposal deadline - Friday 20 April

Selected designers’ interviews - w/c 30 April (TBC with selected designers)

Delivery of project - July 2018 onwards


10. What to do next

For any further information contact Peter Sharpe on

Expressions of interest should include:

1. A clear statement about your practice and why you are interested in responding to the Castle Hub project. 200 words max

2. Initial thoughts about how you might approach the project. 2 sides A4 max

3. A summary CV. 2 sides A4 max

4. Up to 5 images of your work as individual PDFs.

N.B. Do not send a series of images as a single PDF.

5. Image information list - title, date, media etc.


Expressions of interest should be sent to: by Midday, 12th March 2018

Please note that late responses will not be considered


11. Further information

Key supporting information relating to the Castle project can be accessed at

Further information about Kielder Water & Forest Park and the Kielder Art & Architecture programme can be found at www.visitkielder.comand