Hebburn’s industrial past will meet its state-of-the-art future as construction continues on the town’s new community hub.
Work is now beginning on the exterior of the £12.8 million building, which will be clad in special weathering steel panels.
The high quality material, famously used to create the Angel of the North, will gradually change colour over the coming weeks and months.
The steel sheeting, called Cor-Ten, was chosen by architects FaulknerBrowns to reflect the area’s industrial heritage and has a natural oxide layer which gives it its weathered, rusty tone. From an initial bluish-grey colour the sheeting will eventually change to bright orange and then a deep, reddish brown.
Over 50 tonnes of the robust, low maintenance steel will be used on the hub which is being developed by South Tyneside Council and constructed by Willmott Dixon as a key part of the town centre’s renewal.
The two-storey building will include a six-lane swimming pool, a learner pool, fitness suite, sports hall, dance studio, soft play area, library, learning centre and cafe, as well as meeting rooms and a customer service centre.
Lee McLaughlin, project director at FaulknerBrowns architects, said: “When any building is conceived, there is always debate on which external material to use.
“With the Hebburn hub we had a great opportunity to engage with the rich local heritage of the area. At consultation stage, public feedback on the use of a metal façade system was extremely positive.
“With history pointing to Palmer Brothers & Co, Hebburn Shipbuilding Dock and Reyrolles, there was great enthusiasm to embrace metal in a contemporary manner, whilst referencing much of the skill and craft pioneered in the area in the past.”
Coun Eddie McAtominey, chair of Hebburn regeneration board, said: “Hebburn Community Hub is going to be a modern, world-class facility, but the steel cladding is a nod to the area’s rich industrial heritage.
“It’s a clever way of celebrating Hebburn’s past and incorporating it into the regeneration of the town centre which will showcase the very best in contemporary architecture.
“This is a very exciting stage of the building process and residents will be able to see the steel changing colour as it gradually weathers and ends up a striking reddish brown.”
Cor-Ten has also been used on the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, and the Maggie’s Centre at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. It is widely used in the marine, structural and architectural industries. Construction on the project began at the end of November with a visit from TV star Julia Bradbury. Since then, the internal floors and lift shafts have been completed and the swimming pool tanks have been excavated.