Work to start on pier gates

Architectural Metalworkers co-director Martin Riches works on a model of "Lightwave", the Roker Pier gates his Washington firm has been commissioned to produce.

Architectural Metalworkers co-director Martin Riches works on a model of "Lightwave", the Roker Pier gates his Washington firm has been commissioned to produce.

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SPARKS are set to fly as work begins on the new-look gates for Roker Pier.

Washington firm Architectural Metalworkers has won the contract to make the new gates for the entrance to the historic landmark.

The "Lightwave" design for the new gates at Roker Pier.

The "Lightwave" design for the new gates at Roker Pier.

Echo readers helped pick the polished steel and glass structure as part of a consultation last year on proposed designs put forward by artists.

Denny Wilson, the senior councillor responsible for culture in Sunderland, said: “The new pier gates are a fantastic opportunity to create an impressive new entrance to one of the seafront’s best-loved landmarks and it’s great that we have a company with the specialist skills to make them here in Sunderland.”

The gate project will cost £75,000.

Martin Riches, director at Architectural Metalworkers in Crowther Industrial Estate, said his team had been working with artist Fiona Heron to finalise her Lightwave design ready for manufacture.

“We’ve worked closely with the artist and structural engineers to come up with a design that ticks all the boxes,” he said.

“It’s got to do the job and it’s got to be safe, but it’s also got to look the part as well.”

Mr Riches said the firm, which employs eight people, took almost as long drawing up detailed designs in this way as it did carrying out the physical work.

He said the company had worked on a number of public art projects and installations.

Its portfolio includes work in the North East and national projects, including the giant metallic orbs in Sheffield’s Millennium Square.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said: “I’m delighted that a local company has won the contract for this work.”

He added: “The city council is working hard to support local businesses through these difficult economic times and the Buy Sunderland First scheme was set up to ensure more Sunderland companies are given the opportunity to bid for council work.”

Roker Pier and Lighthouse is a Grade II-listed structure of special architectural and scientific interest. The pier took 18 years to build and opened in 1903.

Residents and leisure chiefs felt its aged “prison-like” gates were in need of replacement as part of revamp plans for the area.

Work on the pier gates will take two months to complete once the metalwork begins.

The project is part of the council’s plans to regenerate the seafront at Roker and Seaburn in a bid to bring in more visitors, boost business and make the area more appealing to residents.