Sunderland Station refurbishment nears completion

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As the £7million renovation of Sunderland train station nears completion, the final touches are being made with the installation of a revolutionary piece of public art to one of the station’s 144 meter long platforms.

The Sunderland train station refurbishment commissioned by Network Rail and Nexus, and designed by one of the North East’s most recognised architectural firms Sadler Brown, has taken just 12 months to complete.

Since its high-profile rebuild in the 1960s following a bomb attack in World War II the station had become tired and dated.  The renovation was earmarked as part of Nexus, Network Rail, Northern Rail and Grand Central’s commitment to providing first class rail services for passengers in the North East.

The renovation project saw Sadler Brown Architecture design, manage and implement a concept that significantly increased the amount of light reaching the underground station.  Adding suspended ceilings, installing heated waiting areas and improving access have been key components of the overall design.

Sadler Brown was also instrumental in the appointment of artists to work on the station’s public art displays.  The station’s ‘lost and found’ theme is continued in the latest piece of art which is due to be unveiled in August.  The animated “light wall” situated on the west wall of the station was created by international artist Jason Bruges Studios and centres around a ‘hidden’ platform that was formerly used by the post office.  The piece offers passengers an imaginative insight into the station’s history.

A glass block wall covering the platform will act as simplified pixel video screen, revealing the station’s past by projecting lights that portray movement and give the illusion that people are boarding trains arriving at the station.  A sensor system registers the arrival of trains and the light wall responds accordingly by showing activity.

David Benison from Sadler Brown said: “Everyone involved in the project was keen to incorporate some public art into the station’s design – the whole concept behind the regeneration was to bring some pride back into the station and we wanted something unique to make it stand out.

“We thought it would be a shame to hide the station’s history so suggested the platform became a pinnacle piece of the overall design.  Having sat on the committee to choose an artist, Jason Bruges’ suggestion stood out.  The idea of bringing the platform back to life fits perfectly with our design and builds on the concept of finding the platform, the station and a sense of pride.”

Sadler Brown has a proven track record of train station architecture having already received awards for its work on St Peters’ Metro station which was commissioned after the route was extended to Sunderland in 2000.  The team are also responsible for the successful development of the Metro’s Haymarket Hub station which was opened by HRH Princess Anne in March this year.

In addition, Sadler Brown is an integral part of the design team driving forward Nexus’ £350million reinvigoration of the Metro Rail System which is currently in its first phase of development.

Sunderland train station is unique in that it operates both major train lines to London as well as local Tyne and Wear Metro services.  It is the only station in the UK to accept both light and heavy rail transport on the same platform.

Alastair Bell, director of Sadler Brown Architecture said: “It has been great to be involved in such an exciting project from the start.  The station was in desperate need of an upgrade and the design had to take a host of elements into account such as passenger comfort, accessibility, safety and long term maintainability to ensure the stations long-term future.

“The design team made a commitment from the start that we wouldn’t close the station at any stage of the transformation, so a lot of consideration has been put into logistics and ensuring the work did not interfere with a full passenger service.  The station now offers a relaxing and practical environment and is a gateway to the city that residents can be proud of.”


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