Propellers of the City

NAME : Propellers of the City  DATE : 2015  CLIENT : Sunderland County Council  LOCATION : Sunderland, Keel Square  PARTNERS : Sunderland City Council Landscape Team, Chris Brammall Ltd, Living History North East, Romag Ltd


To create a landmark memorial to the shipbuilding industry as the centrepiece of a new town square for Sunderland.


We conceived this piece as part of a larger artwork suggesting the outline of the biggest ship ever built on the Wear.  From a prow-shaped platform overlooking the river, a 300m line of granite engraved with the names of ships built in Sunderland down the centuries leads back to the town square.  Behind this ‘keel line’ stands the memorial: faces of shipyard workers cover a propeller motif, which turns within a circle of words listing shipyard professions.

Our thought was that just as propellers drive a ship forward, so the shipbuilders of Sunderland drove their city forward.




A call was put out through local press and radio for families of shipyard workers to send in photographs to Living History North East.  A propeller design incorporating scanned photos was then laminated between sheets of toughened glass.  Meanwhile, Chris Brammall Ltd fabricated the steel and bronze structure, solving the technical challenge of getting the glass to turn freely enough for people to easily search for faces they know.

Read more on CB Arts

Read more on Romag



Keel Square was unveiled on 31st August 2015


A book has been published that documents the process, and records each face within its co-ordinates on the Propeller. The book was presented at the opening of the square in August 2015 to all the participating families along with an enamelled propeller badge.



Winners of the Northern Design Awards 2015

Over 600 years the ‘propellers of this city’ were undoubtedly its shipyard workers, an endeavour resulting in Sunderland becoming the largest shipbuilding town in the world. Our efforts are of course a shadow of their colossal achievement, but on behalf of all the designers and makers I sincerely hope this memorial will continue to turn and honour the unsung heroes of Sunderland who built a great city on the Wear
— Stephen Broadbent