The longest and most time-consuming commission we have ever undertaken (but probably worth it in the end)! In 2002 the site of the former City Library was offered for tender by Durham County Council with a complex design brief for its intended redevelopment. SJR Architects were engaged by a local property developer in partnership with Newton Moor Construction, a Durham based contractor, with extensive experience of building within Durham City. As well as being within the Durham City Conservation area, the site was encompassed in the World Heritage Site, due to its proximity to Durham Cathedral and Castle. Whilst this made the site extremely attractive for prime high density apartment development, it also imposed almost unfulfilable design constraints. Within the strict height limits and building lines imposed by the design brief, a feasibility scheme indicated that upwards of 25 apartments could be accommodated in 3 blocks fronting the river and South Street and spanning over the adopted access road, which diagonally split the site.
A bid was submitted by the Developer on this basis, together with the feasibility study, which was ultimately successful both on price and design information basis.
This, however, was only the beginning.
Gaining planning permission took over 12 months of design meetings with conservation officers and planners, with the assistance of Durham architect, Brian Iley in final detail designs, planning approval for 27 apartments was finally granted in March 2004.
The final scheme involved the removal of large amounts of earth and rock to allow the erection of a 5 floor level block facing the river with smaller 3 and 4 level blocks linked by bridging apartments on the other facets of the site. These, all designed to pick up elements of the Durham vernacular, but with a contemporary twist. The scheme incorporates a fully automated basement car parking garage which removes and retrieves a vehicle via a lift and paternoster stacking system with 90 seconds, the first example of this technology used in the North of England.
The final phase of the scheme was completed in mid 2007, some five years after its inception, with the majority of the apartments sold either off plan or soon after release.