Beacon of Light
A winner in the 2019 RICS Awards for the North East, Beacon of Light was born from the Foundation of Light (FoL) charity’s pledge to combat reported shortcomings in the region’s education, health and employment skills.
The £18million Beacon of Light is the first not-for-profit facility of its kind in the UK. It offers improvement opportunities for all, from educational and wellbeing resources, skills training, pathways to employment, healthy lifestyle activities and a multitude of sports.
The facilities include an indoor arena where anyone can take part in a wide range of sports regardless of age or ability. There is support for those suffering from mental or physical disabilities and specialist education available for all generations. The roof top Football Barn is an inspirational space encouraging all those who use it to exceed and succeed.
Located next to Stadium of Light, the home of Sunderland AFC, Beacon of Light provides a vibrant and feel-good environment where people can meet socially also.
The fundamental design challenge for the project’s architect, FaulknerBrowns, was accommodating two inherently different spaces within one complex: a multi-use, sprung-floored, highly-conditioned sports hall, with specific acoustic and lighting requirements, and an ‘outdoor’ artificial grass pitch. The inventive, functional solution stacks a roof-top ‘Football Barn’, created under a lightweight structure, on top of shared community and education facilities and a controlled, insulated ‘box’, housing the sports hall.
The arrangement minimises the overall footprint, maximising external space for 5-a-side pitches, contributing to the business plan and creates height, emphasising it as a regional beacon, especially in the immediate context of a stadium. A colour-changeable lighting scheme allows the Foundation to customise the appearance of the building to mark specific events. On match days it’s illuminated in the red and white stripes of Sunderland AFC, and through other bespoke colourways it is able to promote campaigns such as, Show Racism the Red Card and World Diabetes Day.
Inside, a feature staircase rising through all floors encourages people to use it as their main point of circulation, increasing physical activity. This procession up the building is also a physical representation of the power of sport to enrich people’s lives.
In its opening year the building is averaging around 4,500 visitors each week. By 2020 this is projected to rise to around 6,000. The building has already engaged a diverse range of people, giving them access to a valuable range of educational, wellbeing and healthy lifestyle resources as well as presenting opportunities to participate in a multitude of activities. Through its work at Beacon of Light it is predicted that the Foundation will generate up to £73m worth of social return-on-investment over the next twenty years.
RICS judges said the Beacon of Light has successfully delivered on its goal to involve, encourage, inspire and motivate. They praised the project team; FaulknerBrowns, Foundation of Light, Identity Consult and Tolent, for delivering an exemplary, much-loved community asset.