Culture House, the keystone 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.

As the site is developed, Culture House director Leanne Littlewood is inviting residents, community groups and organisations to feed back on what they would like to see it deliver.

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The council is aiming for Culture House to 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 started work on this building, 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 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 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.”

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Work is expected to complete by summer 2025 and 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. This project will bring many benefits to the region throughout its build including new local employment, apprenticeships, and work placements.”

Culture House is one of a number of developments progressing as part of Sunderland City Council’s Riverside Sunderland delivery plan, 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.