Sunderland’s young people will have the chance to design homes of the future, as part of a competition led by TV architect George Clarke to inspire the next generation of city architects, urban designers and construction workers.

More than 30 local schools and colleges, have signed up to be part of the Sunderland Home Design Challenge – organised by Sunderland City Council in partnership with George Clarke’s educational charity MOBIE (Ministry of Building Innovation and Education) – to give younger people in the city a voice when it comes to the homes that are built at Riverside Sunderland, a 33 hectare urban quarter planned for the heart of Sunderland.

The Design Challenge is just one part of a growing programme of activities and events that will take place across the next three years, as the city builds up to hosting Expo Sunderland in 2023, that will inspire and excite the world about the innovative new homes and communities that will be created at Riverside Sunderland.

George Clarke, who was born in Washington, delivered a talk to kick off the challenge, and encouraged young people to use their imagination and creativity, along with inspiration from the history of the site,  to produce their own designs for the new homes.

Young people in four age categories – 7-11, 12-15, 16-18 and 19-24 – were invited to take part in the challenge, and will have the opportunity to put their mark on the 1,000 homes that will eventually be built at Riverside Sunderland, which is transforming into a vibrant mixed-use community.

The area comprises the former Vaux Brewery site, Farringdon Row, Galleys Gill, Sheepfolds and High Street West.

Kate Campion, a teacher at Dame Dorothy Primary School in Monkwearmouth, one of the schools that is taking part in the challenge, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking part in the Design Challenge – it’s a great opportunity for our students to help influence the design of homes that they may one day live in.

“It’s really timely, and fits well with the curriculum.  The whole school completed a local area heritage project this term, and this will build on that, helping our young people develop a stronger sense of connection to their local area and the city’s heritage.

“In one of the most bizarre school terms in memory, it is great to be part of such a positive project that is fun and engaging for students.

“It’s inspiring for them to see someone, in George, who is from the same city and same background as them, who has ‘made it’. Hopefully it shows them that anything is possible.”

The Design Challenge is part of a wider community programme to ensure young people are engaged with the work which is underway to improve their city.

The challenge was launched as part of a programme of webinars that kicked off Expo Sunderland, and a three-year programme of events, that will help shape and showcase plans for housing at Riverside Sunderland.

The Expo will culminate in a Festival of Future Living, which will take place in the summer of 2023, and will see 100,000 visit the city to explore a range of events, demonstrations and exhibitions showcasing how we will live in the future.

Claire Johnson, who is headteacher at Broadway Junior School, has also signed up to the challenge.  She said: “We love getting involved in community projects and competitions, especially if there is a link to the city.  We’re very proud of our Sunderland heritage.

“To be involved in this project is really exciting, and having George Clarke fronting it all is even more special.

“The children love designing and creating things, so this project is a perfect fit for us at Broadway Junior School.

“The children were mesmerised, seeing the Riverside Sunderland site and knowing they will have the chance to be part of this and to shape their city – their excitement was clear to see.

“It’s going to be our big ‘whole-school’ project for the spring term.  It’s a privilege to be involved.”

TV presenter, George, who is part of the project team that is shaping plans for Riverside Sunderland, said he was thrilled to be working with the council to deliver the Design Challenge, which he hopes will inspire young people about career opportunities in housing design and construction, as well as exciting them about Sunderland’s future.

He said: “What’s happening in Sunderland over the next 10 years is really exciting.

“We’re building lots of really beautiful new houses that will transform the riverside.

“There will be lots of different facilities, but importantly, there will be lots of new homes, which is what the city centre needs.

“This challenge is all about young people free-thinking; being as open and creative as possible.

“It’s all about their ideas. We see lots of houses being built that are just like little boxes with a roof on, and we’re looking to be inspired by young people’s ideas to create special places to live.

“This challenge is about young people creating their future in Sunderland.  When these children grow up, they’re going to need somewhere to live.  Their own house or apartment and they’re going to want that to be really special.  We don’t want it to be ugly and dull.

“So this is an opportunity for them to shape their homes and make sure they’re exciting places.

“It’s fantastic to be able to see them connecting with their city in a new way, learning about its past and thinking about its future.

“I’m really proud to be a Mackem and I want every young person to feel the same.  To feel the same pride and ownership of their city.”

Students will work on the challenge between October and March, and young people will explore  how homes might look in the future and how technology might be used within the home to ensure people live enriched, healthy lives.

The ideas that come out of the Design Challenge will be showcased during the Expo programme and at the Festival of Future Living event in 2023.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with George Clarke to inspire and excite people about the opportunities Riverside Sunderland represents for them, and to ensure they play a part in the plans for the area.

“We are determined to create a vibrant and dynamic city, where young people want to stay as they grow older, so working with them to design the homes that they may live in, in the future, is really exciting.”

To find out more about Sunderland Expo Sunderland, visit: or for more on the plans for Riverside Sunderland, visit