‘8-bit wall’ featuring 1,704 LED bricks approved for Sunderland's Culture House

Culture House © Faulknerbrowns Pillar VisualsCulture House © Faulknerbrowns Pillar Visuals
Culture House © Faulknerbrowns Pillar Visuals
Plans for an “8-bit wall” light installation at a landmark cultural venue on Wearside have been given the green light.

Back in 2022, plans were approved for the Culture House, a new cultural attraction in the heart of the city centre overlooking Keel Square.

With a mix of library, creative, digital and community spaces, the towering culture hub is linked to Sunderland City Council’s ongoing regeneration work at Riverside Sunderland.

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The project, which is part funded by the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, is expected to boost city spending while attracting more than half a million visitors a year, according to city leaders.

Following demolition work at the Keel Square site, the project to build the new venue is under way with the Culture House expected to open in early 2025.

In January, 2023, councillors agreed plans to “step back” part of the venue to avoid critical broadband infrastructure, as well as bringing forward an outdoor café seating area.

As part of the changes, planning permission was granted for a huge light installation on the front of the building which could be programmed to advertise exhibitions and events.

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In February, 2023, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved a separate bid for advertising consent for the signage, described in council planning documents as an “8-bit wall.”

The installation would be made up of 1,704 LED brick tiles operated through 24 control boxes.

A covering letter submitted on behalf of applicant Sunderland City Council said the lighting would “provide a unique opportunity to light the façade which can be programmed to change on a temporal basis”.

Plans also proposed using the lighting to “suit certain themes to correspond with exhibitions, art installations or public events”.

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In addition, the plans include two LED screens installed at ground floor level adjacent to the building’s main entrance, which can also correspond with exhibitions, art installations or public events.

Those behind the scheme claimed the lighting would “enhance the significance, versatility and design” of the Culture House, as well as boosting footfall in the area.

The planning statement adds: “The site is located within the urban core where advertisements are widespread, although integrated advertisements of this specific nature are unusual in Sunderland.

“Nonetheless, the advertisements are considered appropriate within this urban city centre location and in context with this landmark community building.

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“The advertisements have been positioned on the north façade of the building which will ensure minimal impact on amenity given the façade will overlook Keel Square, a well-established area of public realm in the city core [which] does not overlook any residential or other sensitive uses”.

After considering the advertisement consent application, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved it on February 24, 2023.

A report from council planning officers said the scheme would align with plans for the Riverside Sunderland area, including making it a “popular place to live and a focal point for civic, cultural and community life”.

It was also noted that the low-level lighting could be controlled to minimise distraction to traffic moving past the site, and that there would be “no glint or glare caused by the lighting on the highway”.

For more information on the plans, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/02391/ADV