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Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Community centre caters for four different needs under one roof to combat shortcomings in the region’s social provision

Building: The Beacon of Light
Location: Sunderland
Architect: FaulknerBrowns
Building type Community centre

The £18 million Beacon of Light in Sunderland is a community centre of four zones in education; health and fitness; sport and work – born of the charitable foundation’s pledge to combat shortcomings in the region’s education, health and employment skills. It was fully funded by grants and donations.

Part of the challenge was accommodating inherently different spaces within one complex: a multi-use sports and events hall, community and education facilities and an ‘outdoor’ artificial grass pitch. The solution was a stacked steel structure with a vast, exterior ‘football barn’ on the roof, its height making it a civic beacon.


The internal sport and play zone is home to many community clubs and leagues, and the addition of the likes of walking football and Paralympic sport Boccia ensures that this is inclusive.

The education zone offers community education but, critically, it has 60 full-time places for pupils who have been excluded from state schools. It has supported 28 courses, in which 90% of pupils achieved a qualification, with all improving skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT.

The health and wellbeing zone offers support for those suffering with physical and mental health, including physiotherapy and aid for veterans with PTSD. On-site kitchens teach nutrition, meaning many families can partake in healthy eating courses and lose weight through its health programmes. There is an active over 55s community programme which brings older people together to combat social isolation.


The work zone offers qualifications in a range of industries in which the region has skills shortages. Over 800 learners have accessed the programmes and three quarters of them have progressed to further education and employment.

‘I was blown away by how many of the city’s communities were involved with this place on various levels – the programme is insane,’ said judge Dan Kerr after visiting the facility. ‘In a city like Sunderland, a place like this must have such a powerful impact,’ added fellow judge Kathy MacEwen.

It’s hoped that the Beacon of Light will generate up to £73 million worth of social return-on-investment over the next 20 years.

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Client Foundation of Light

Architect FaulknerBrowns Architects

Engineering Shed

Environmental/M&E engineer JH Partners

Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Identity Consult

Planning consultant Wardell Armstrong

Main contractor Tolent