His practice, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, has helped design London’s Alexandra Palace, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and even the National Trust headquarters in Swindon, but it’s Simon Doody’s latest project in the heart of Sunderland which he believes could have ‘the largest impact yet.’
So, what makes The BEAM so special? For Doody, it’s more than just a workplace, it’s the sign of a post-industrial city reinventing itself and a catalyst for the future. He explains: “As a practice, we work across a range of sectors from healthcare to residential, education, cultural, you name it, but I believe if you’re thinking of projects that are real catalysts for redevelopment, then this is almost a one off.
“When you look at the possibilities of the wider Vaux site, not just this project, the benefits and the opportunities that the city will reap are immense. It’s a 20-year regeneration project which, once complete, will extend the footprint of the city centre, create thousands of jobs and also spawn high-quality leisure, retail and housing developments which will transform the city’s offering.”
Once work is completed in the Spring, The BEAM has the potential to house up to 50 businesses and could lead to the creation of more than 7,000 city centre jobs. However, it’s not just the economic impact which caught Doody’s eye, it was also the creative freedom he was given when designing the building and the rich heritage of the city and its people that he could draw inspiration from.
“A lot of people probably won’t notice this at first glance however The BEAM has been meticulously designed to pay homage to the city’s culture, from the Wearmouth Bridge to the city’s maritime and lighting heritage,” he adds. “The first thing we considered was the position of the building and its proximity to the bridge.
“The bridge is built on these glorious Victorian structures and, coupled with its heavyweight girders and trusses, this informed how we started to think about the front of the building which looks out over the Keel Line.
“Another key influencer was the site’s shipbuilding heritage which inspired the horizontal ribbon windows which, because of how they’re designed, boast stunning panoramas with breath-taking views of the sea, the port, the lighthouse, the stadium and the newly erected Northern Spire.
“Then, as we considered the colour of the building, we looked at the brass and bronze metals used when constructing capstans in the shipyards – and the stills and vats used in the brewing processes at the old Vaux Brewery – and we wanted to bring that through with the warm, bronzey colour materials which have been used in the external façade.
“As an architect, I’m a firm believer that buildings should be locked into context and that members of the public feel some sort of synergy and ownership of them. It’s important that people feel a connection with their city and I hope The BEAM echoes this notion.”
Developer Siglion has also been keen to stress since the outset that all buildings on the VAUX site are built with wellbeing at their heart, creating spaces for people to ‘live well, work well and feel good’ and The BEAM is no different.
“We always try to work on buildings inside-out so this whole idea of The BEAM offering something new as a workplace was vital and the themes around wellbeing were especially important,” he added.
“This has affected and informed how we have developed the concept of this building, everything from the natural ventilation through to the courtyard in the middle which is an external, shaded and protected amenity space, it’s all about how we create a sort of internal environment which tenants can use in lots of different ways.
“The courtyard is especially unique as it’s an open-air space, protected by the wind on one side by glass, which will lend itself perfectly to staff meetings, lunch breaks and even events which could be anything from product launches to yoga classes, evening wine tasting sessions and even musical performances, it’s adaptable for lots of different uses.
“It’s like no other Grade A office space I’ve worked on. It’s a real different offer to not only other workplaces in the city but the wider North East and has been built to cater for businesses from an array of sectors. It’s more than just a building, it’s the sign of a city which is reinventing itself from a post-industrious behemoth to a dynamic, forward-thinking city of the future, and we’re delighted to have played a role in this transformation.”
To find out more about The BEAM, visit the website here or follow @thebeamvaux on Twitter