Sunderland Civic Centre
Designed in 1965 by the architectural practice of Sir Basil Spence, Bonnington and Collins (and attributed to John S. Bonnington), the low informal group is built of brindled brick and red tile. Planned as two linked hexagonal blocks plus a half hexagon administration building, the Civic Centre was designed to fit into the sloping site and into its context of hilly park and C19th crescents. Elizabeth Williamson, in the 1983 revision of Pevsner’s Buildings of England Durham guide commends the “artfully designed” steps and ramps which were designed to cope with the changing levels and create an urban environment rather than a monument. The interiors used a simple palette of materials much inspired by the naturalness of Alvar Aalto’s Saynatsalo Town Hall but using a local engineering brick as better-lasting than concrete. Bonnington designed a chained curtain for the two-storey window outside the council chamber, inspired by that at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. He also designed all the furniture, some of it repeating the hexagonal motif. The Civic Centre was extensively reviewed and selected as one of the best of seven regional projects by Building magazine in 1970. The local authority says the Centre is too big and expensive to maintain and is planning to relocate and demolish the building to make way for housing. C20 challenged an application for a Certificate of Immunity without success, removing the likelihood of protection and constructive re-use until 2022.
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