Construction of a new riverside headquarters for Durham County Council is underway and expected to reach completion in Autumn 2021. An exciting opportunity to transform a riverside location in the heart of the historic city into a thriving civic destination, the project will see significant public realm improvements in the area, including a riverside walk and gardens inviting people to engage with the River Wear.
Over half of the site is dedicated open space, with richly planted riverside gardens and woodland spaces offering sanctuary from the bustling city centre. Connections to existing active travel routes form an integral part of the development and along with wider transport links will help the Council achieve its aim of more modern ways of working; with staff able to work from other council buildings, closer to residents, or from home.
At the centre of this regeneration project sits a new civic square around which the council building is formed. ONE Environments design is for an inclusive and welcoming space, which sympathetically sites the contemporary building into the rich natural habitat of the river edge. The building has been designed to emphasise engagement and promote transparency with a large central glazed atrium overlooking the square and river allowing the public to view the workings of the council. The southerly aspect and intimate human scale of the square will create a sheltered habitat for wildlife with newly planted trees, gardens and ornamental planting beds; whilst also providing an accessible outdoor setting for events and activities throughout the seasons.
Viewing terraces adjacent to the public café will give south facing views of the square and riverside emphasising public ownership of the outdoor space. There will also be a civic balcony for privately organised events leading out from the Chamber and Committee Rooms which will overlook the river and garden spaces. The hope is that the civic square will become a well-loved Durham destination and landmark on event routes such as the annual Durham Lumiere and other seasonal celebrations.
The construction site, the former Sands Car Park, posed several challenges to design and deliver a suitable solution for the new County Hall building. A small site footprint with a riverside edge in a conservation area, it required multi-disciplinary collaboration as well as the latest technology to develop the design that is now being realised. An innovative approach to flooding risk will see excess river water flow safely under the building and landscape.
facts & figures
Durham County Council New Headquarters
CLIENT: Kier Construction & Property for Durham Council Council
LOCATION: City of Durham
PARTNERS: Ryder, 3E, Desco, Turner & Townsend
SERVICES: Landscape Architecture S1-S6 & TVIA/ ES