Dec 9th: Morpeth Station’s design could help students win national award

Final year students on a degree course at Northumbria University are hoping that their design ideas to revitalise Morpeth’s Victorian railway station can help them win a prestigious national design competition.

The students from the Interior Design BA (Hons) programme at the university have entered the annual competition run by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London, which this year has been set by Network Rail entitled ‘Grand Station Designs.’

The competition is inviting entrants to ‘design a way to re-invigorate or re-purpose an ageing commuter train station building, utilising its existing structures and resources’ with the aim of addressing societal issues, and improving ‘ambience and identity to such places to engender a sense of civic pride and community.’

The responses are expected to be varied with consideration of graphics and wayfinding, inclusive design and commercial interior or product design to name a few.

Morpeth Railway Station where work has just begun to repair, refurbish and restore the 172 year old main trackside building so it not only meets the needs of modern travellers, but its empty offices can be converted to accommodate up to 7 budding businesses in an enterprise hub, is an ideal case study for the students’ competition entry says Interior Design Senior Lecturer, Dr Julie Trueman.

“We have selected Morpeth Station for this hypothetical project as it has the perfect mixture of disused or under-used historic buildings, potential for consideration of the underpass, platforms, waiting areas and approach paths and the possibility for the design to engage with a vibrant, close-knit community,” said Julie.

“A vital part of any ‘live’ project is the opportunity to conduct primary research and we are grateful to Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) and their contractors STP Construction for inviting us to visit the station now that work is underway.

To see areas of the station previously closed off as well as having an explanatory tour will be invaluable for our students in their development of a cohesive concept design, aligned with the practicalities of creating a viable outcome.

Project architect John Curtis has also offered an in-depth account of the history of the station and an outline of the current re-design proposals which, combined with an RSA and Network Rail workshop, will provide our students with a wealth of resources to inform their design decisions in this fast-paced brief that should result in a range of exciting and innovative ideas.”

GMDT is leading the £2.2 million project which has the support of a funding partnership made up of the National Lottery, Northumberland County Council, the Railway Heritage Trust, North East Rural Growth Network and track and train operators Network Rail and Northern.
As well as the repair and modernisation work the station will benefit from a new ticket office, a café/restaurant and improved toilet facilities. Its distinctive portico entrance will also be restored, as will several historic tall chimneys which give the station its characteristic look. Work is expected to take about a year to complete.

Morpeth Railway Station dates back to 1846 when it was designed for the Newcastle & Berwick Railway Company by the noted architect Benjamin Green. He, together with his father John, was responsible for many North East landmarks including the Theatre Royal, the Literary and Philosophical building and Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, Penshaw Monument and the railway viaducts at Willington and Ouseburn.

Morpeth Station is the last of the railway buildings he designed along the East Coast Main Line, that still has passenger facilities.

GMDT Chair, Doug Phillips welcomed the involvement of the Northumbria University students. “We are excited by the prospect of revitalising Morpeth Railway Station and I have no doubt there will be some interesting design concepts and imaginative ideas put forward by the students, which might be able to be incorporated into our own future plans for the station,”   he said.

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