The ability to create the desired long
spans and its speed of construction were the
reasons for choosing a steel-framed design
with precast flooring, says FaulknerBrowns
Architects Senior Associate Peter Hunt.
“This solution also allowed us to leave
much of the steelwork and precast elements,
along with the building’s services fully
exposed, as a nod to Sunderland’s industrial
and shipbuilding heritage.”
The two office blocks obtain their
structural stability from their concrete cores,
but they are also linked together by a central
full-height covered atrium.
According to Mr Hunt, the atrium 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.
A number of link bridges span the
10m-wide atrium at first, second, third,
fourth and fifth floor levels, providing easy
connectivity between the two separate
blocks. Even more access between floors is
afforded by a feature steel staircase that sits
in the middle of the atrium.
Externally, the building is said to respond
to its position 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 welldefined
base with an emphasis on engaging
the street with an appropriate civic
expression. The steel columns and beams
framing the two buildings will be clad in
reconstituted stone with a tone and finish
that responds to the materiality of the grade
II listed baroque style Magistrates Court,
which also sits on the square.
The steel columns start at ground floor
and are founded on mass-filled concrete
foundations. According to main contractor
Bowmer + Kirkland (B+K), the ground
conditions are not suitable for piling and
the chosen method was the best solution for
B+K Senior Project Manager Paul
Anderson says: “We started on site in
November 2019, and our first task was an
earthmoving exercise, which enabled us to
install the foundations.
“Once completed and after we had infilled
the ground, Hambleton were able to start the
steelwork erection programme in June.”
As well as fabricating, supplying and
erecting the project’s steelwork, Hambleton
is also installing the precast planks and
precast stairs as part of its programme.
As planks are up to 12m in length and
weigh between 2t and 3t each. Because
of their length, they are installed along
with each individual floor of steelwork,
as manoeuvring the floor units into a
completed frame would be extremely
For the buildings external finishes, a
series of large glazed openings are said
to promote transparency and create an
active ground floor with a strong visual
relationship to the public realm.
Similar to the building’s internal areas,
the envelope is also said to take 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.
Sunderland City Hall is due to be
complete by September 2021.
“Commercial developments like
Sunderland Civic Hall take full
advantage of the pre-cambered
The twin blocks are five
storeys and six storeys
A full-height atrium
connects the two office
Precast flooring units
are installed along with
the main steel frame.