A GRADE A office building spearheading one of the UK’s most ambitious regeneration projects in decades has secured a coveted architecture award.
The Beam, situated on the former Vaux Brewery site, part of Riverside Sunderland, has been awarded a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) award for the North East of England.
Designed by architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, the office building was the first development to rise from the ground as part of the regeneration of Riverside Sunderland, which, once complete, will transform the city’s skyline creating a new urban quarter where people will live, work and play.
The building provides five floors of Grade A office accommodation with panoramic views spanning the River Wear and coast and since opening its doors in 2019 has already signed up anchor tenant Ocado, the world’s largest online grocer, as well as fast-growing North East SMEs Asset55 and Penshaw View.
The 60,000sq ft building, which has been designed to pay homage to the shipbuilding past of the city, was commissioned by Sunderland City Council, with the ambition of kicking off a programme of transformation. And just months after it opened its doors, it was revealed it had done just that, with Legal & General committing £100m to build City Hall and two further speculative office buildings at Riverside Sunderland.
Simon Doody, partner at FCBS, said: “The RIBA awards are one of the most prestigious honours you can receive as an architect and we’re absolutely delighted to see The Beam recognised with such a highly coveted accolade.
“As an architect, I’m a firm believer that buildings should be locked into context and that members of the public feel some sort of synergy and ownership of them. It’s important that people feel a connection with their city and I believe The Beam really echoes this.
“A lot of people probably won’t notice this at first glance however The Beam has been meticulously designed to pay homage to the city’s culture, from the Wearmouth Bridge to the city’s maritime and lighting heritage.
“The bridge is built on these glorious Victorian structures and, coupled with its heavyweight girders and trusses, this informed how we started to think about the front of the building which looks out over the Keel Line.
“Another key influencer was the site’s shipbuilding heritage which inspired the horizontal ribbon windows which, because of how they’re designed, boast stunning panoramas with breath-taking views of the sea, the port, the lighthouse, the stadium and the newly erected Northern Spire.
“Then, as we considered the colour of the building, we looked at the brass and bronze castings used in maritime metalwork – and also the vats and vessels used in the brewing processes at the old Vaux Brewery – and we wanted to bring that through with the warm, bronze colour materials which have been used in the external façade.”
Owned and operated by Sunderland City Council, a number of local businesses were also brought in to work on The Beam during the construction phase, including Desco UK, an award-winning electrical and mechanical design practice which worked closely with Simon and his team to bring to life the vision they had for the building, as well as offering advice on the site wide energy strategy, BREEAM assessment duties and specialist lighting designs.
“We always try to work on buildings inside-out so this whole idea of The Beam offering something new as a workplace was vital and the themes around wellbeing were especially important,” Simon added.
“It’s like no other Grade A office space I’ve worked on. It’s a really different offer to not only other workplaces in the city but the wider North East and has been built to cater for businesses from an array of sectors. It’s more than just a building, it’s the sign of a city which is reinventing itself from a post-industrious behemoth to a dynamic, forward-thinking city of the future, and we’re delighted to have played a role in this transformation.”
Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, added: “The Beam was a huge statement of intent when we began drawing up plans for Riverside Sunderland and we’re absolutely delighted with the impact it is already having on the ever-evolving city skyline.
“Not only has it helped bring thousands of jobs to the city, but it has also helped breathe new life into this area of the city centre which has for so long been underutilised and we would like to thank Simon and the team at FCBS for all of their hard work to deliver a really iconic building, that has now been officially recognised as such.”
For more information on Sunderland as a city to do business, visit: https://www.mysunderland.co.uk/business-and-investment