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Work begins on Culture House

04 September, 2023


Work begins on Culture House

WORK to build a multi-million-pound world-class visitor attraction is underway in Sunderland, creating local jobs during its build. 

Culture House, a cultural and community venue overlooking Riverside Sunderland's Keel Square, is under construction, with the council now calling on the community to play a part in defining the spaces and activities it will house. Sunderland City Council, which is leading the development, has appointed leading UK construction company Kier to build the eye-catching venue, which has been designed by award-winning North East practice FaulknerBrowns Architects.  And as the building rises from the ground, Culture House director Leanne Littlewood is inviting residents, community groups and organisations to feedback on what they would like to see the building deliver. 

The council is aiming to develop a space that will ignite a spark of curiosity in all who visit Culture House.  It will feature digitally powered immersive spaces, as well as exhibitions to inspire and educate and areas that can be used by the community to learn, meet, and have fun. Councillor John Price, vibrant city portfolio holder, said that Culture House will deliver immediate benefits to the local community even before it opens, thanks to social value commitments by Kier.

He said: "From the moment Kier starts work on this building today, our communities will benefit, through opportunities for local businesses and people during construction.  Local people will help build Culture House, and local contractors will work on, and supply the materials to create it."It is fitting that's the case, as our ambition is to create a space, in Culture House, that is shaped by our residents.  That is a genuine community asset, because it has been truly co-created by local people, and designed to serve their needs."

The council has already engaged hundreds of residents, holding public consultation sessions to gather feedback on early proposals for Culture House.  The response to the building was overwhelmingly positive, with residents welcoming the addition of a place for families in the heart of the city. Further work has been carried out with local schools, as well as college and university students, with the launch of a competition last month to design one of the teen spaces within the new Culture House.  Sunderland City Council worked with partners Microsoft and TA Education to build Culture House in Minecraft, helping inspire young people in Sunderland, and giving a taste of what might be possible within the building.   

Leanne Littlewood, who was appointed earlier this year to shape the plans for the building, said: "We really want to gather feedback to influence the permanent features within Culture House, as well as the programme of activities and events delivered from it - and if not from there, from the city's other cultural venues.  We want to understand what people want to see delivered from this space.  We want to give our residents an opportunity to curate the cultural offer across Sunderland, helping us design different spaces in the city to ensure they excite people from all corners of our community."

A programme of enabling and preparatory works has been carried out over the last twelve months, while final tweaks were made to the design of the building to deliver it within budget.  Kier was awarded the contract following a competitive tendering process and the build programme will begin immediately, with work expected to complete by summer 2025. 

Dan Doherty, Regional Director at Kier, said: "Culture House will be an outstanding new venue for the residents of Sunderland and visitors to the city and I'm thrilled that Kier Construction was appointed to deliver the design and construction of such a significant building. This project will bring many benefits to the region throughout its build including new local employment, apprenticeships, and work placements.  We will utilise modern methods of construction to deliver the scheme safely, and my team are already engaging with the local community to maximise our social value commitments and leave a positive legacy from the build."   

As work gets started, hoardings surrounding the site of Culture House will be moved, a site office will be established at Crowtree Green and the Propellor - a piece of stunning glass artwork that was installed when Keel Square was regenerated - will be temporarily removed and repaired in anticipation of the building opening and surrounding landscaping works being undertaken. 

Culture House is one of a number of developments progressing as part of Sunderland City Council's Riverside Sunderland delivery plan.  Backed by hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment, the plan includes number of large-scale developments in the city centre, including the development of Maker & Faber, two new Grade A office spaces; the Sheepfolds Stables leisure development; and a new housing scheme on the former Vaux Brewery site.  The ambition is to double the area's residential population and increase employment by 50 per cent.

To feed in ideas for Culture House, email  To find out more about Riverside Sunderland, follow the pages on social media or visit