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Work starts on FaulknerBrowns’ £42m Sunderland Vaux Brewery scheme

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Construction has begun on FaulknerBrowns’ plans for Sunderland’s new £42 million city hall – part of the redevelopment of the city’s Vaux Brewery site

Project backer Sunderland City Council is expected to move around 1,200 employees into the seven-storey building on the plot which, until recently, had laid dormant since the brewery’s demolition in 1999.

The scheme marks the second phase of Urbed’s £500 million mixed-use masterplan for the 5.5ha city centre site on the south banks of the River Wear.

An office-led first phase by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios finally completed this year after Gateshead-based contractor Tolent was brought in to complete the job following the collapse of Carillion, which started the construction 2016.

FaulknerBrowns’s scheme will sit on plots 13 and 14 on the southern edge of the masterplan and will bring together council staff from eight different offices around the city under one roof.

According to the practice, the project is set to deliver ‘net operational savings’  to the council of around £22 million over 25 years. The building will also include customer services areas, a fitness room and an employment centre.

The council will be just one of the tenants within the 17,755m² building.

FaulknerBrowns partner Lee McLaughlin said: ‘The design embraces the needs of everyone. Our proposal provides a place-driven approach to both civic and private workplace, creating a strong urban framework that fosters community, and promotes interaction between citizens and municipal workers, putting people at its heart.’

The news comes as Legal & General announced it was pumping £100 million of investment into the wider scheme to deliver three commercial blocks, including the city hall project.

Work is expected to complete in late 2021.

8. sunderland city hall faulknerbrowns architects

8. sunderland city hall faulknerbrowns architects

The architect’s view

The new building responds in both scale and mass, presenting two volumes fronting on to Keel Square, linked by a covered central avenue. This acts as a public thoroughfare to make the available services visible, legible and accessible. An activity-based work environment unfolds along this central internal lightwell, delivering an engaging, flexible workspace with an emphasis on natural daylight and wellbeing throughout the building.

Visual connections and interaction between occupants and building users are promoted through the openness and transparency of the interior spaces.

10. sunderland city hall faulknerbrowns architects

10. sunderland city hall faulknerbrowns architects

Detail model of facade

Externally, the building responds to its siting adjacent to the recently upgraded Keel Square, an important new public space within the city and an integral part of the masterplan development. The building is grounded on a well-defined base with an emphasis on engaging the street with an appropriate civic expression.

The columns and beams are clad in reconstituted stone with a tone and finish that responds to the materiality of the Grade II-listed Baroque-style Magistrates Court (1905) which frames the square. Large glazed openings promote transparency and create an active ground floor with a strong visual relationship to the public realm.

The building envelope takes inspiration from the advanced engineering and material craftsmanship synonymous with the city’s industrial and maritime heritage.

The middle and top sections of the façade incorporate lightweight aluminium profiles set within floor-to-floor glazing, arranged to provide a structured and subtly varied articulation to the envelope, orientated to passively control solar heat gain.

Project data

Client Sunderland City Council
Architect FaulknerBrowns Architects
Landscape architect Landscape Projects
Planning consultant Cundall
Structural engineer Cundall
M&E consultant Desco
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
CDM adviser Cundall
Main contractor Bowmer + Kirkland
Start on site date November 2019
Completion date Autumn 2021
Gross internal floor area 17,755m²
Form of contract and/or procurement Design and build
Total cost £42 million 

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