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Business & Economy

Plans for Sunderland’s Culture House unveiled

Plans for a unique cultural attraction in Sunderland city centre have taken a major step forward with a detailed planning application set to be submitted to the Council.

Culture House will be a multi-purpose cultural venue, packed with features and with a year-round programme of activities. It will combine a state-of-the-art city library and a permanent home for local history and archive collections with spaces for exhibitions, storytelling, learning, gaming, media, arts and crafts.

A café, a roof garden and welcoming social spaces will make Culture House a “living room in the heart of the city”, and the building will offer an exciting mix of immersive digital experiences and traditional media.

Stunning new images show a striking contemporary building, which will stand on the south side of Keel Square. Culture House has been designed by award-winning local architects FaulknerBrowns who were also responsible for the nearby City Hall. The £25m new building will provide more than 75,000sq ft of accommodation on four floors, and the project has secured funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.

Plans for Culture House were first revealed in the City Council’s Riverside Sunderland masterplan and the proposals have been fine-tuned following a series of engagement events with the public which revealed strong support for the project.

The new building is expected to attract more than half a million visits a year and will draw people from across the city and beyond, contributing to city centre regeneration and enhancing Sunderland’s exciting cultural offer.

Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said the plans represented an important milestone. He said: “Culture House will be a stunning building, a showcase for our Smart City credentials and a source of inspiration for an ambitious, forward-looking city.

“These proposals reflect the views of local people and our partners, and we have also learned from the experience of some of the world’s best new cultural venues and libraries.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re thrilled with these plans. Culture House will be a truly world-class venue and it is destined to be a much-loved addition to the life of the city.  It will be a source of pride and a symbol of the city’s resilience and its confidence in the future and will draw more people and their spending power into the city centre, fuelling the regeneration of the area and supporting local businesses.”

Ciara Eastell OBE, Project Director for Culture House (Counterculture Partnership LLP), has been a key part of the team shaping plans for the building.

She said: “Counterculture is passionate about developing high quality cultural infrastructure that serves communities and audiences while strengthening local economies.  We’re excited to see Sunderland City Council take the next important steps in realising the ambitions for Culture House, a new city centre destination that will benefit communities and residents across Sunderland.

“Culture House will be a hive of creative energy – a stimulating, engaging, immersive house of learning and creativity for all residents and visitors to Sunderland.  Local residents, groups and partners across Sunderland have all given their ideas and suggestions for Culture House over the past six months and it will be exciting to see those ideas come to fruition.”

Designs for the building have been developed by FaulknerBrowns Architects.

Lee McLaughlin, Partner at FaulknerBrowns Architects, said: “Our design for Culture House explores Sunderland’s historical focus on making as well as it’s ambition as a contemporary city with a pivotal role to play in the UK economy.

“The project sits at the heart of our successful Future High Streets Fund application, which focuses on the city’s journey to a post-retail future and seeks to increase social, environmental and economic value by creating unique experiences and cultural gravity.”