Public artworks celebrate city’s shipbuilding heritage

Sunderlands Keel Square opens

Sunderland's £3m new civic space Keel Square is now officially open, providing a much-needed outdoor public events space and connecting the city centre with a proposed new cultural quarter at the old Vaux brewery.

Two pieces of public art have been incorporated into the square, both celebrating Sunderland's shipbuilding heritage.

The Keel Line is a strip of granite that shows, year by year, the names of 8,102 ships built in Sunderland since 1786, with notable people, places and events illustrated by local graphic artist Bryan Talbot. The line runs straight through the square, on across St Mary's Way to the Vaux site and down to the River Wear, linking the disparate spaces. At 291.7m from start to finish, it's the same length the Naess Crusader, the longest ship ever built in Sunderland (launched in December 1972).

The start of the Keel Line is marked by a 3.5m-high interactive bronze and glass sculpture by Stephen Broadbent, called Propellers of the City. This giant wheel displays photographs of 400 former shipyard workers.

Sandstone and granite paving make the new square an appropriately grand setting for the existing Edwardian magistrates' court. Further interest is added by play fountains, coloured illuminations, adjustable lighting, and stone 'friendship benches' carved with the crests of Sunderland's various twin towns.

Keel Square is part of a much larger £100m regeneration of Sunderland city centre. Read our full report here.

Council leader Paul Watson said, 'Keel Square is an important step forward in Sunderland’s journey of change. The square celebrates our world-class shipbuilding prowess and proud industrial heritage. It gives the city a space for events and a landmark to be proud of.'

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