City Hall - staircase

A 23 tonne feature staircase that pays homage to Sunderland’s industrial past is being crane lifted into the new City Hall. 


Stunning images show the steel staircase being carefully manoeuvred into place, one of six sections that will slot into the building’s atrium to create a spectacular feature at the heart of the new civic hub. 

The locally sourced staircase was fabricated by Beal Architectural, a firm that started off life in Oak Street in Hendon supporting Sunderland’s ship-building efforts. Now based in Birtley, the company has used a local supply chain to provide materials for the stairs and has spent more than 2,000 man hours on its fabrication, applying some 200 litres of paint. 

The stunning staircase - designed by award winning architects FaulknerBrowns - is finished with a matt oxide paint, which cuts through the cream coloured floors and ceilings in CGIs of the building’s interior, creating an eye-catching focal point in the new public sector building. 

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Sunderland has a rich industrial heritage and a stone’s throw from where this building stands is the River Wear, which was one focal point of this proud past. 

“Our city was a shipbuilding marvel and many families will still have strong links to that past - they, their father, mother, brother or sister may have worked in Sunderland’s shipyards. 

“We are rightly proud of that hardworking heritage and so - in a building that represents the civic heart of this city - there will be a permanent tribute to the glorious time when we were the shipbuilding capital of the world.” 

He added: “Though our heavy industry was largely lost in the 80s, it’s fitting that we should remember it on Riverside Sunderland - a part of the city that is regenerating at rapid pace and will become the work place of many thousands of people as it is developed out over the next decade or so. Though industry has changed, the people here have the same ethic – of hard work and determination.”

The stairs will be crane lifted into the building in parts, with the largest component weighing in at 4,500kg and measuring over 10m long.  Work started on its installation last week, and it is expected to be filling in-situ by the end of this week. 

Paul Anderson, who is overseeing the construction of the 190,000sq ft City Hall on behalf of construction partner Bowmer + Kirkland, said: “This will be an iconic feature.  It’s been a complex process to get it into place but it really will look magnificent when it’s finished. 

“The feats of engineering that left Sunderland’s shipyards were truly incredible, so it’s great to be part of a project that helps us imagine the colossal scale of the ships that were built on Sunderland’s docks.”

The staircase will take pride of place in the central atrium of City Hall, bringing together the two footprints of the building. More than 2,000 people will work from City Hall - which was funded by Legal & General as part of a £100m commitment to Riverside Sunderland that will also see two more buildings rise from the ground - when it opens next September.  The building will house Sunderland City Council and a range of public sector organisations and services, designed to provide the best possible support to residents.

Lee McLaughlin, a partner at FaulknerBrowns, the architects behind the designs for City Hall, said:

“For us, successful places and environments of all scales, must establish a clear story and design agenda that contains the seeds of distinctive character and identity. 

“We wanted to build on the city’s rich heritage of making and engineered excellence – often in sublime scale. We feel this adds not only authenticity to the building but also adds a balanced expression of both past and present local expertise, and we are proud to have collaborated on this one.“

City Hall is one of a number of new buildings rising from the ground at Riverside Sunderland - an area comprising the former Vaux Brewery site, High Street West, Galleys Gill, Farringdon Row and Sheepfolds. A Masterplan, highlighting a programme of work over the next ten years and beyond, is set to be released next week and will map out the development projects planned to create a sustainable new urban quarter, providing a place to live, work and play for thousands of people. 

Cllr Miller added: “City Hall will be a spectacular building, at the heart of a new community that will redefine our city centre. Riverside Sunderland will be truly transformational for this city and we’re aiming high in every single development we deliver here, as it’s what our residents want and deserve.”

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