Insights article

Celebrating successful urban regeneration: Five inspired designs in North East England

Sebastian Weise
Published: 23/05/2023

Share this


Whether landmark, historic, gothic, or stadia, these five inspired designs in North East England inspired residents and united their communities.

As North East-based natives, here at Place Changers we want to celebrate six of the most inspiring designs that can be found on our doorstep. Though they may differ in shape, each and every one of these innovative regeneration initiatives have been designed as places where people want to live, work, socialise, and have fun. 

What do we mean by inspired designs?

Inspired building designs are not just for large projects, in fact you can just as commonly find them in smaller residential and new build schemes, too. Likewise, they don’t need to be endorsed by major developers or opened by celebrities, they simply need to support their local community and bring people together. 

For example, as part of the North Shields and Fish Quay Masterplan, ambitious plans have been unveiled for a new transport hub and town square at the centre of the borough. This initiative promises to transform the area, making it more vibrant and accessible for local residents to live, work, or visit.

So, without further ado, let’s look at five of the most inspired designs around Newcastle, in North East England.

Shining the light on a coastal landmark

St Mary's light house

St Mary’s lighthouse, in Whitley Bay, was first constructed in 1898 and remained in operation until 1984. Designed by J. Livingstone Miller, the lighthouse received Grade 2 heritage status in 2012.

A local icon, not to mention an important wildlife hotspot and seal haul-out, the site was awarded over £164,000 in 2018 to redevelop the visitor centre, keeper’s cottages, and the lighthouse itself, as part of North Tyneside Council’s Seafront Masterplan.

Popular with dark sky photographs, where even on the rarest of occasions the Northern Lights can be glimpsed, St Mary’s lighthouse and its surrounding coastal area is the defining image of Whitley Bay’s identity. Given the cultural, historial, and environmental importance, adding the lighthouse to our list of inspired designs was an easy choice.

Inspired designs shaping the heart of a community

North Shields masterplan

Swapping one Grade 2 listed building for another, The Exchange North Shields is a theatre, bar, and arts venue situated in the local town centre. With a rich heritage, it is currently being restored by North Tyneside Council as part of their High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), funded by Historic England, and the wider North Shields and Fish Quay regeneration masterplan. 

The HAZ is a four-year initiative to enhance physical conditions, provide community amenities, and promote cultural events on North Shields' historic high streets as part of the North Shields and Fish Quay regeneration Masterplan. The town centre and subsequent areas will be restored sympathetically to its heritage roots, while creating a new pedestrian-friendly environment and vibrant cultural scene.

Through The Exchange's Community Events Programme, The Exchange is teaming up with local companies to offer events and opportunities for the North Shields area. This is an excellent way for local residents to become involved in culture and entertainment while helping boost the local economy.

The Exchange is a bustling cultural centre for North Shields, uniting local people from all backgrounds. It also makes an excellent destination to take children, boasting plenty of family-friendly shows and activities that will keep them occupied while their parents relax, which is exactly why it’s made our list of inspired designs.

Historic commercial culture in a bustling city centre

Grainger town

Grainger Town, consisting of Grey Street, Grainger Street, and Clayton Street, is the cultural heart of PlaceChanger’s hometown city of Newcastle upon Tyne. First developed by the eponymous Richard Grainger during the 1830s, a hugely impressive 40 percent of all buildings within this area are now protected due to their historical and architectural importance.

At the central hub of Grainger Town sits Grey’s Monument, a 134 foot column, now recognised as one of Newcastle’s most defining landmarks. Celebrating the community, the tower was commissioned to celebrate the Reform Act of 1832—a government legislation introduced to widen the number of residents who were able to vote.

Located at the very heart of the city, Grainger Town resides directly within Newcastle’s Central Conversation Area, designed to protect the historic nature of the city—one of the first such areas of its kind in England. Also including the Grainger Market, home to the very first Marks & Spencer, the inspired designs of Grainger Town represent Georgian architecture at its very best.

Bringing people together through sport

St James' Park, situated in the city centre, looms over Newcastle upon Tyne like a cathedral. Home to Newcastle United, the stadium area has housed the football club since 1892, with several major redevelopments taking place over the decades that have followed. Now seating a capacity of over 52,000 the stadium has played host to other major sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup, and live music.

An icon of glass, steel, and concrete, the St James’ Park was first redeveloped in 1899. A record 68,386 people were in attendance to watch Newcastle United play Chelsea in the 1930/31 season, with the club also one the first known teams to support a women’s exhibition match in April 1895. 

Inspired designs aren’t just to be found when inside the stadium itself, though. In fact, the surrounding area is made up of Grade 2 listed buildings dating back hundreds of years. Playing a fundamental role within the culture of the city and its people for well over one hundred years, St James’ Park is our last, but by no means least, inspired design. The club is also committed to carbon neutrality, and was announced as the world’s first ‘carbon positive’ football club in 2012.

Modern hub of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Quayside

Newcastle Quayside

Newcastle Quayside is a lively stretch of riverfront which features the iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge, and BALTIC art museum, this area is also home to many stylish bars, restaurants, and clubs. It is also the location of a vibrant market where people can buy local produce and crafts.

In the past, the Quayside was a vital part of Newcastle's industrial heritage, serving as a commercial dock and ferrying coal down to the port. After the closure of many of these industries, the area was transformed into a hub of arts and culture. 

The redevelopment of the Quayside began in earnest in the late 1990s based on a masterplan by the legendary Newcastle-educated architect and urban designer Sir Terry Farrell.

Since then, the area has become a hugely important aspect of modern city life. Led by NE1 Ltd, the city centre business improvement district company, which successfully campaigned for the renewal of the Quayside in 2019, the redevelopment and the architecture of the quayside has inspired people to visit the area more often, promoting a more diverse and inclusive community, and driving economic growth for the region.

Sunderland Riverside: Exciting vision for city living

Sunderland Riverside

Sunderland Riverside (Credit: Sunderland Council)

Last on our list of inspired designs, and by no means least, is Sunderland Riverside is a vibrant and thriving area situated along the banks of the River Wear in the city of Sunderland. 

This waterfront district has undergone significant urban regeneration, transforming it into a hub of activity and a focal point for the local community. With its stunning views of the river and a range of amenities, including shops, restaurants, and recreational spaces, Sunderland Riverside offers a dynamic environment where residents and visitors can live, work, and play. The area seamlessly blends modern architecture with historical elements, creating a unique and appealing atmosphere.

The revitalization of this area has been spearheaded by Sunderland City Council, working in partnership with private developers (such as Place First and Igloo Regeneration), community organizations, and urban planners and architects (such as Mawson Kerr, Faulkner Browns, and KMA). One notable project is the Riverside Sunderland Masterplan, a comprehensive regeneration strategy that focuses on creating a vibrant mixed-use district along the riverfront. 

A vision document can be found here

Inspiring your own designs

Residents' inputs and involvement are core to the most inspiring regeneration projects. Planners and architects have used PlaceChangers for their own share of inspired designs, just take a look at some project examples such as the regeneration of the North Shields and Fish Quay masterplan, or the more recent Northern Roots urban farm masterplan for which JDDK and the wider team are nominated for a RTPI North East award. 

At Place Changers, through enhancements to desk research and powerful community consultations, we’re here to support projects and transform communities for the better, whenever you are in the world. Putting residents first enables projects to maximise outputs, with our digital consultation tools increasing engagement and improving the quality of design briefs and planning. Get in touch today and start inspiring your local community.

You might also like

Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter

Receive our latest news and insights directly to your inbox.