Sunbeams Music Centre

‘To provide a sustainable legacy for people with disabilities…’ the client’s mantra driving the Sunbeams Music Centre - a bespoke music therapy facility designed on a site overlooking the Lake District.

The building is designed as a home and advert for the amazing work Sunbeams do working with disadvantaged members of society. Bringing music into the building was on of the key drivers alongside harmonising the building with the natural surroundings and wider environment.

The building exemplifies what we believe good design to embody; passive environmental principles, contextual connection through materials and techniques and innovation in form and layout. The design incorporates ground source heat pumps, photovoltaics and locally sourced materials such as sheep’s wool insulation.


Architects Journal Awards - Healthcare and Wellbeing Project of the Year
Structural Timber Awards - Architect of the Year
RIBA MacEwen Award –Shortlisted
Civic Trust - Selwyn Goldsmith for Accessibility Shortlisted
Civic Trust - Civic Trust Commendation
Buildings Awards - Small Project of the Year finalist
LABC Northern - Best Public Service building Shortlisted
LABC Northern - Best Educational Building Shortlisted
LABC Northern - Best Inclusive Building Shortlisted
LABC Northern - Small Commercial project of the year
LABC National - Small Commercial project of the year Finalist
Offsite Awards - Healthcare Project of the Year Shortlisted
Offsite Awards - Best Use of Timber Technology Shortlisted
RICS North West - Community Benefit Award Finalist
Structural Timber Awards - Healthcare Project of the year Shortlisted

Oak Tree Passivhaus

Design and Delivery: MawsonKerr with Richard Pender

Oak Tree Passivhaus is an exemplar in  low energy residential architecture, innovative in both the process and the finished building which, in the words of the client is a delight to live in.’ It is also the first Certified Passivhaus in Tyneside thus combining ‘delight’ with robustness in design and delivery.

Sited on a steep slope with mine workings beneath, bedrock, ground gas, and TPO trees, the scheme overcame these difficult constraints with a layout that captures long views across the Derwent Valley and framed views of the nearby protected oak tree.

High ceilings and large format windows allow for a great quality of daylight and a sense of airiness. Utilising the sloping ground the main entrance is to the Upper ground floor which accommodates the open plan living spaces and a bedroom/shower with the remaining bedrooms on the lower ground floor.  This configuration allows the client to live solely on the upper floor if needed, future proofing for any eventuality.

A twin timber frame was designed for the main structure, filled with a large thickness of insulation with minimal thermal bridging. Insulation and lining materials were chosen to ensure a “breathable” construction, promoting longevity and a healthy environment.

Local and low embodied carbon materials were chosen, such as Larch cladding from the Scottish Borders and stone gabions from the site bedrock. The only steel in the building was use in the slender fins that hang the balcony from the overhanging roof whilst also supporting the timber solar shading. This accumulates in the total embodied carbon being lower than the RIBA Climate-Challenge target for 2030.


RIBA North East – Shortlisted pending result
Construction Excellence NE – Sustainability Commendation

Friar House Apartment Hotel

Friar House is an excellent example of pre-Grainger Newcastle and has seen various transformations since construction in the 1700’s from the Town Recorders main residence to an industrial factory.

The large Georgian town house was in a poor state of disrepair when we took on the project to restore the grade II listed building and convert into a boutique hotel. Roomzzz Newcastle is an award winning which can now be enjoyed now by all. There are 14 suites over the five floors including a penthouse suite with mezzanine floor in the roof space. Proportions of key spaces have been retained employing  “Manhattan Lofts” style subdivision to create different moods within original proportioned spaces.

Numerous original features are highlighted in this building employing all the modern trappings hotel guests would expect with all the detail of a restoration project.


Newcastle Lord Mayors Awards – Conservation Award
RIBA North East - Emerging Practice of the Year
RIBA North East - Conservation Project of the Year
RIBA North East - Building Award
RICS North East - Tourism & Leisure Commendation

Sacred Heart High School Auditorium

The existing auditorium space at Sacred Heart High School had become dated with a combination of poor sight lines and limited capacity leading them to our services in reimagining this space.

Following an initial appraisal we established the re-raking of the seating would serve a double benefit in also creating a new space underneath where a new outward looking staff and assembly facility could be located. The auditorium is also intended for touring theatre companies including the RSC, the facilities have been developed to give this flexibility as well as providing a new dance / theatre teaching space during everyday use to maximise the impact of the works.

We developed a simple stripped back palette of natural materials and earthy colours with the school to give a calming feel and inspiring for the young performers. The staff area opens out to give expansive views of the wooded estate the school sits in.

The build was completed in the live environment on the first floor space including substantial alterations to the existing concrete structure over six months.

Birdoswald Roman Fort

Birdoswald Roman Fort is part of Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade II listed (Courtyard Buildings).  The site is run by English Heritage with the existing visitor centre providing interpretation displays for the Roman Fort as well as a new café, retail, education space and accommodation.

The project looked at an overall masterplan and refurbishment/new build options for the centre including visitor flow and experience.

A key aspect to the project was the spatial assessment of the current and proposed and the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ that needed to be solved to appropriately accommodate all functions to maximise the visitor experience and allow for an efficient running of the site.  The design involved both refurbishment and a new build contemporary glazed link.

We have worked closely with the project team to develop and scheme which we be an exemplar family experience and their flagship family site on the Wall.



RICS North West Leisure and Tourism Award

Lodge House, Gosforth

Located in a conservation area the design drivers of the extension and refurbishment of a dilapidated stone lodge were to preserve the unique character of the lodge whilst providing modern living for the client and a sense of space. The extension is of unique character and unashamedly contemporary whilst still respecting the context. The extension provides a large cooking, eating and entertaining space and an additional bedroom and rationalises previous substandard additions to the lodge.

The natural materials of the zinc roof and the stained rough sawn blackened timber cladding compliments the natural stone and slate of the existing lodge. The asymmetrically nature of the extension roof allows for volumetric interest internally and for North light to penetrate the space, reducing overheating and glare.

Star & Shadow Cinema

Star and Shadow Cinema is a co-operative and registered Community Benefit Society which runs an independent theatre whilst providing a venue for artists and musicians. The organisation is run entirely by volunteers with decisions made democratically.  Previously located on Stepney Bank Ouseburn they have grown out of their currently venue and managed to secure a dilapidated building on Warwick Street to transform into their new venue.  This exciting community led scheme includes a Cinema, Venue Space, Café, Community Spaces, Artist Studios and Workshops which are all to be built by the volunteers who have many different skills and expertise– a truly immense DIY project .

Design development has been an holistic and bespoke process incorporating ‘found’ items, recycling materials from their current venue and allowing an evolving scheme to incorporate other items founded during construction.  The design ethos is ‘buildings within building’ to make maximum use of the volume of the industrial shell whilst also creating the high acoustic performance needed within the cinema and venue space.  The layout and design has been created to have a vibrant heart to the building, a welcoming face to the street frontage and to enable volunteers to have a sociable time in the building whatever they have been allocated to do.

Jesmond House as seen on Channel 4

Working in collaboration with Zac Monro we designed (co-authors with Zac) and delivered this high profile project which was aired Channel 4 Inside Out Homes.

The brief was to connect, both physically and visually, the large semi-detached home with the garden and provide a high quality kitchen, dining and family space, within the existing house and a single storey extension. The extension is unashamedly modern and bold with huge sliding doors and chrome coated fin columns. A large slit rooflight allows for natural light to penetrate the existing house and the open plan helps create an airy space.

The studio garden is a vis a vis of the extension but in a thin profile timber cladding which seamlessly wraps the rest of the garden. Using high end materials and careful detailing the quality of the finished project has prevailed.

More can be found out about the project and the suppliers on this link:

Studio Work

We have completed a number of recording studio’s and acoustically enhanced performance spaces nationwide. Through a strong working relationship with acoustic specialists we are delivering various projects for schools, large companies and private clients.

We have completed specialist facilities at several universities, one off buildings such as Sunbeams Music Centre worked and with a number of high profile music producers nationwide. This work requires a collaborative spirit to ensure the technical requirements of the space are aligned with the design ambition.

There is a keen attention to technical detail required to create successful ambience. Our approach marries the physics of sound with an uncomplicated aesthetic approach.

Darras Hall House as seen on Channel 4

In our second collaboration with Zac Monro, we designed (co-authors with Zac) and delivered this high profile project which had its own episode on Channel 4 Inside Out Homes.

The brief was to enhance the connection, both physically and visually, between the house and the garden. In addition to this the clients wanted to totally modernise and enlarge their dormer bungalow which was suffering from damp and structural issues.

Working within the confines of the strict local planning law we have produced a dynamic and contemporary interpretation of a dormer bungalow will 5-6 bedrooms with huge windows and open plan living to the ground floor. The use of natural light and inventive space creation makes a special place the client can call home and allows for the flexibility for their growing family. Homely yet unashamedly modern.

More can be found out about the project and the suppliers on this link:

Gosforth Residential Reworking

We worked with a client looking to fully overhaul a property creating a family home in the Gosforth area of Newcastle. The family were keen that the garden linked visually to the house with clear lines of sight from the kitchen and living spaces. Working with the existing structure rather than against, the ground floor has been opened up and connected but allows for a certain separation when different tasks are happening in separate areas.

While the interior has an unashamedly modern feel, the light airy spaces and connection to the garden soften the ambience and give a homely feel. The project also involved a single storey extension at ground level and master bedroom within the roof void with en-suite and study space within the confines of the queen post truss. A full electrical overhaul was required with underfloor heating incorporated into the entire ground floor providing energy efficient heat.