THE organisation charged with transforming Sunderland’s most exciting sites is injecting some creative spark into plans for Seaburn, after appointing an artist to help transform it into a thriving seaside hotspot.
Sunderland regeneration business Siglion – which aims to create happy, healthy and sustainable communities in the city – has appointed nationally-renowned local artist, Simon Watkinson to help shape its plans for the stunning seafront, as it looks to add detail to an outline plan that will see Seaburn become a vibrant mixed-use site.
Siglion was given planning permission to proceed with plans last month, and will be working with a design team, residents and the newly appointed artist to scope out creative ideas for the seaside location. Simon was appointed with the help of three local residents, who had all expressed an interest in working with an artist to help develop the more detailed plans for the area.
Simon will help lead on designs for the public realm and landscaping, creating engaging spaces in Seaburn that appeal to both residents and visitors of all ages. He has previously worked on commissions at St Peter’s Church, including the design of a stunning cast aluminium floor, which won the Northern Design Award in Commercial Landscaping Design in November 2016, said: “I am delighted to be part of this significant moment in Seaburn’s evolution.
“It is an exciting opportunity to develop the site’s relationship both with the coast and with its history, but also looking to its future.”
Once a bustling seaside location, Seaburn has seen a decline in visitor numbers in recent years, but a landscaping project running the length of the seafront, delivered by Sunderland City Council, has helped to create an attractive space that Siglion hopes to enhance further.
One of the residents on the panel, Anne Curtis, who lives at The Bents, known locally as the Fishermen’s Cottages, and had been following plans for the area closely before approaching Siglion to talk about how they would like to see them develop, said: “Sunderland people hold this area close to their hearts with wonderful memories of happy family days spent at the beach. A visit to the fairground was a real Sunday treat.
“I think this is an opportunity for the artist to work with the architects to design an amazing masterplan that reflects the history of this unique seaside location. We want to be proud of Sunderland, we want people to travel miles to see this wonderful development.”
Siglion is looking to provide new homes, cafes, retail and outdoor areas in Seaburn. Simon’s role will be to help make Siglion’s ideas of a 21st Century seafront location a reality; a space residents, day-trippers, walkers, cyclists and families can enjoy. He will collaborate with appointed landscape architects Landscape Projects and urban designers, PAD Design to make the most of Seaburn’s outdoor spaces.
John Seager, chief executive of Siglion, said: “We wanted someone that added creative input to inspire and shape the plans for Seaburn, and while it was a very close-run thing between the three artists we shortlisted, Simon’s collaborative approach, and his real sense of what Seaburn is about, won the panel over.
“Seaburn is a unique site, and we want to celebrate that sense of place, as well as the wider city’s character and identity, its people, its heritage and its natural landscape. Simon has such a sensitive appreciation of how important people are, and their relationship with the place they live. We were all left totally convinced that his primary objective would be to create a place that is appreciated by all.”
John added: “It was so important to us that residents had a say in Simon’s appointment too, and in the end, it was unanimous. We’re delighted to have him in place, and look forward to seeing his contribution as part of the more detailed plans for Seaburn.”
Simon will now work with PAD Design and Landscape Projects as they begin the process of designing a modern seaside destination. Seaburn is just one of the sites Siglion is working on, with regeneration well underway at the former Vaux brewery site, as well as plans for Chapelgarth, Farringdon Row and Numbers Garth.