Sunderland’s new pier gates have a touch of glass

Coun Harry Trueman (left) with artist Fiona Heron looking at part of the new gates for Roker Pier with Martin Riches, director of Architectural Metalworks in Washington.

Coun Harry Trueman (left) with artist Fiona Heron looking at part of the new gates for Roker Pier with Martin Riches, director of Architectural Metalworks in Washington.

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WORK is pressing ahead on the new landmark pier gates for Sunderland’s seafront.

Artist Fiona Heron was on Wearside to see how work is taking shape on her “Lightwave” design, which will form a key part of efforts to rejuvenate Roker and Seaburn.

The gates, made of glass and stainless steel, will be installed later this year to replace the decaying “prison-like” gates at the historic Grade II-listed Roker Pier.

Ms Heron visited Architectural Metalworkers in Washington’s Crowther Industrial Estate, where co-director Martin Riches and his team are making her artistic vision an engineering reality.

“It’s always very rewarding to see your design at this stage, coming to fruition,” said Ms Heron. “I’m really pleased with how the gates are progressing.

“We’ve been working really closely together to achieve the concept and it’s really good to see them coming together now and the glass being fixed in place. It’s the culmination of a lot of time and work.”

The design will feature stainless steel bars with different finishes and at various angles to create an optical illusion resembling a wave.

Glass prisms will be fitted to catch the light, as well as being a nod to the lighthouse, and a porthole will frame the historic landmark as well as streaming through the sunlight.

“We’ve tried to make it a sustainable design which will last,” she said. “The finish is on the steel itself, so it won’t need to be painted.”

Mr Riches said the design and manufacturing work was robust enough to stand up to vandalism and heavy use.

He said the firm was able to source most of its services and suppliers – including the water-jet cutters – from within Wearside.

Sunderland City Council commissioned the gates after a consultation on both the future of the seafront, and on possible designs.

Four options were put to residents and Echo readers, with Ms Heron’s design coming out top.

Deputy council leader Harry Trueman visited the factory to meet Ms Heron and Mr Riches, and see how work was proceeding.

“I think these will be fantastic,” he said. “People who took part in the consultation were very enthusiastic about having new gates to improve the appearance of the pier and lighthouse, and Fiona’s design was the most popular by far with both the public and the selection panel.

“The seafront at Roker and Seaburn is one of our greatest assets and the funding for the new gates has come from money the council secured from the Government’s Sea Change fund, which is a real bonus.”

Sunderland was awarded £1million from the Commission for the Built Environment (CABE) in 2009 to revamp Roker’s Marine Walk.

The money is for culture-led seaside regeneration and the award was boosted by £500,000 of extra funding from the council.

The gate project will cost £75,000 and the structure will be installed once essential maintenance work is completed at the pier.

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