Market Square
Public Realm design, street furniture and  integrated Public Artworks // Sunderland UK // 2009-2012
  • Market Square / Union Street, Sunderland
    The area around Market Square in Sunderland, an extensive, pedestrianised zone surrounding a large, busy shopping centre, is typical of the post-war public realm in many UK cities. It is intensively used, but suffers from its mono-functional retail offer and lacklustre architectural backdrop. The client wanted to create a new public realm with high-quality materials and strong atmosphere, flexible enough to accommodate a vairiety of special events and activities, and at the same time enjoyable to be in on an everyday basis.
  • The new Market Square by day
    The challenge in the brief lay in the question of how to bring together the desire for a flexible space for markets and events (which requires a largely empty, open space) with the convivial intimacy required to make it a pleasant place to be when nothing special was going on (which requires a spatial scale offered by trees, seating and other street furniture). In our project, we interpreted this seeming contradiction as an opportunity to develop a specific solution, out of which a new spirit of the heart of the city would be developed.
  • The new Market Square by night
  • Plan with iron filings
    100 cast iron floor plates are set into the new paving, the location of each plate derived from a study of pedestrian movement patterns through the space. Their patterns and alignments are analogous to those of iron filings under the influence of a magnetic field. Like manhole covers, each of the 'filing' plates covers an underground space, housing different elements of technical and cultural infrastructure.
  • Mobile street furniture
    A system of mobile street furniture was designed to create a public realm which could by turns be convivial, and socially dense and then emptied or adjusted for a diverse variety of special events and happenings. The furniture elements are fixed to the ground via the iron filings, the two elements working together to create a plug-in public relam.
  • Detail of a light filing
    As well as being foundations for the mobile street furniture, the underground space covered by the filings is houses different elements of the square’s infrastructure, such as surface water drains and electricity supply. Other filings are home to a system of lighting.
  • Detail and trench for the light filing
  • Filing types in the foundry
  • Design team inspecting the patterns at Jennings foundry in Sunderland
  • Structural testing of the filing and acrylic window
  • The 'Iron filings' installed on site
    The bonding pattern of the different coloured granite paving on the sqaure is generated in response to the matric of the of the 'filings'.
  • Urban infrasturcture housed in the 'filings'
    The light filings are controlled individually via a DALI programming system, so that movement and atmosphere change from day to day and in response to the events on the square. In addition to the lighting, other filings house drainage channels and sockets for the electricity supply for the square.
  • Poem filing with Thunderword
    16 of the filings house are dedicated to a 'poetic infrastructure', an notional 'nervous system' for the spirit of the place. The filings marking the presence of this network are marked with 'Thunderwords' (originally a poetic device from James Joyce’s 'Finnegan’s Wake'). Local poet Wajid Hussein developed the Thunderwords through a collaborative process with local residents exploring ways of describing the Heart of Sunderland.

Client:  Sunderland City Council // Collaborators: Sunderland City Council (Landscape Design), Lightfolio Ltd. (Lighting), Wajid Hussein (Poetry) // Bench fabrication consultants: Macemain + Amstad // Services: Urban design consultant, Lead Artist, bespoke furniture and fitting // Area: 3.200 m² // Budget: £ 1.2 m