The Word


Location: South Shields

Client: Bowmer & Kirkland

Value: £2.0 million

Duration: 26 weeks


‘The Word’, a new Library and Digital Media Centre at the heart of the South Shields town centre redevelopment. The building boasts of an outstanding illustration of concrete, incorporating a feature soffit with patterned cut ply, recessed bands and a central atrium with cast coffers.

The four-storey building was the first part, and focal point of the £100m South Shields development scheme to transform the town centre over the coming years for both residents and tourists. As well as a library, the facility also featured an IT suite, exhibition space, a café rooftop restaurant and terrace.
The concept, developed by FaulknerBrowns Architects, takes a simple circular form and inserts two Lens Platforms to provide superb views of the River Tyne. The architectural idea for the façade is likened to fanning out the pages in a book with the entrance overlooking the Market Place being book-ended by two vertical spine walls. The concept allows the benefit of fantastic views both into and out from the building at key locations.
Each floor wraps around the perimeter of the façade with a 15 metre diameter atrium located in the centre with triple height voids cutting through at the entrance and the Lens Platforms.

The building incorporated a reinforced concrete flat slab solution with exposed soffits around a central atrium area. The structure stood proud, with a type 2 high-quality exposed concrete finish, beautifully presenting the in-situ concrete frame, columns and soffits spread over four floors. Cylindrical columns running throughout the build were constructed using with single use spiral cardboard tubes, producing an immaculate face to the columns. The columns were internally lined with a smooth face plastic release sheet; and a special pour method was adopted to achieve the best result with each column.

The Word was shortlisted as a feature project at the Concrete Awards 2016


  • High quality exposed in-situ concrete frame over 4 floors with exposed columns and soffits to incorporate recessed feature bands and coffers cast within them.
  • The building envelope with vertical terracotta rain screen baguette system and architectural pre-cast concrete panels to surround the ground floor.
  • Underfloor heating and cooling pipework cast through the concrete slabs to all floors, controlling the open plan heating system.