THIS is the new £11.8million square that aims to breathe new life into Sunderland city centre.
The public square, currently under construction as part of the realignment of St Mary’s Way, will act as a meeting place for public events and gatherings.
The new space will also feature artwork that celebrates the city’s industrial heritage and specifically the Wearside’s workers and their role in establishing Sunderland’s reputation for shipbuilding supremacy.
Water features, landscaping, street furniture and space for cafe culture-style entertainment all aim to transform the site into a thriving hub of activity.
It is also hoped the completed work will be the first step towards the eventual transformation of the neighbouring Vaux site. The focus of the square will be two artworks named Propellers of the City and The Keel Line.
British sculptor Stephen Broadbent has been working in collaboration with the city council on the pieces, the inspiration for both being Sunderland’s shipbuilding heritage.
A 3.5m high interactive sculpture, Propellers of the City will include the photographs of up to 500 Sunderland people who worked in the shipyards, in roles from blacksmith to loftsman, riveter to cleaner.
Sunderland residents are being asked to submit photographs of family members for inclusion to the Living History North East group based at Donnison School in Sunderland, where members are co-ordinating the collation of images.
The second artwork, The Keel Line will lead from the Propellers, across the square and continue over the extent of the Vaux site towards the river.
At 291m the line represents the full length of the Naess Crusader, which is the longest ship ever built in Sunderland. It launched from the James Laing shipyard on December 21, 1972.
The length of the line will include the names of up to 9,000 of the most significant ships built in Sunderland’s shipyards dating back to the early 19th Century.
Artist Bryan Talbot, author of the graphic novel Alice in Sunderland, has been contracted to design how the names of the ships are presented and the illustrations that will run the length of line.
Bryan said today: “I have never done anything like this before, so it’s very exciting.
“The shipbuilding theme will be represented throughout the line.
“I have just started work on it all but I’ve seen the artists’ impressions and the square looks fantastic.”
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council said: “The Keel Line and Propellers of the City are significant works for Sunderland.
“Not only will they be important records of our maritime heritage, they will also act as a Keel Line for the future development of the former Vaux brewery site as it progresses towards its new purpose as an urban business district.
“In creating the new city centre public space we saw the opportunity to celebrate Sunderland’s shipbuilding and industrial heritage.
“We want people in the city to become involved in the work, supplying photographs of relatives who worked in the shipyards and sharing their own thoughts on the many ships that sailed from Sunderland’s yards.”
•The public can take their photographs of relatives in the shipyards to be scanned and returned while they wait, between 12pm and 4pm on Tuesdays and Fridays at Living History North East, Donnison School Heritage and Education Centre, Church Walk, Sunderland. People can also send their digital photographs to email@example.com to check for quality.
Work on the St Mary’s Road realignment began in May and will continue until spring 2014, with the creation of the new square and ‘Keel Line’ following on from this. The entire scheme will be completed by the end of 2014.