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Serjeant Award for Excellence in Drawing

'A Thin Place': Mesolithic Archaeology Museum, Northumberland

Part 1 Project 2008
Shaun Young
Northumbria University Newcastle | UK
‘A thin place’ - a geographical location where a person experiences only a very thin divide between past, present and future times, a place which, if only for a moment, allows people to encounter a more ancient reality. The museum has an unavoidable relationship with nature.

Tied to an ephemeral eroding rock spit, subject to a fractious climate and fluctuating tide patterns the building acts to synthesise and exaggerate the naturally occurring phenomena of the north east coastline.

Guided by curiosity, the visitor explores a series of experiential exhibition volumes in which exposure is increased as the building moves further from the safety of land. Bleeding into the land at low tide and hovering uneasily above the crashing waves of the high tide.

The building is an experiential journey from land to the horizon, connecting us to our ancestors through the shared experience of climatic conditions.

Shaun Young

Shaun’s project addresses a forgotten landmark of major historic significance. The coastal path at Howick in Northumberland is the site of one of the oldest houses in Europe, lost for millennia before being revealed through the inexorable erosion of the coastline.

With the construction of this dwelling, the previously nomadic people of the Mesolithic age began to establish themselves firmly in the landscape. This would become the basis for notions of dwelling, connection to place and the shift from nomadic hunter gathering to settled agricultural communities.

Shaun’s major studio project explores these themes through the design of an education centre focused around this Mesolithic hut.

The education centre is a modern-day museum which will house both permanent and travelling exhibitions, as well as a small archaeological research unit which will serve those studying the Mesolithic hut as well as the many other historic sites to be found in the area.

The project displays a sensitivity to both our ancestral heritage and the sublime beauty of the landscape.

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