Innovate and Celebrate: George Clarke's Challenge for Washington's 60th Anniversary
Washington 60 Design Challenge workshop at Pupils from Barmston Village Primary School

Next month, a series of workshops are inviting young minds to envision the future of Washington’s homes.

These complimentary workshops are a key component of the Design Challenge, initiated in December by renowned TV architect George Clarke, his charity MOBIE, and the Sunderland City Council. This initiative is in celebration of Washington New Town’s 60th anniversary, encouraging the younger generation to contribute their innovative ideas for the future.

This has seen young people from schools across Washington challenged to come up with their vision of an innovative residential community for the next 60 years.

Designated a New Town on 24 July 1964, Washington was hailed for its innovative and forward-thinking residential designs for homes, as well as the establishment of long-lasting communities. It became part of the then Borough, now city of Sunderland 10 years later.

Schools taking part in the free-to-enter contest are being asked to design a 21st century super sustainable ‘courtyard’ style housing scheme, with houses for all ages designed around a pedestrianised courtyard square – in line with the essential features of the original 1960s plan. 

The challenge is open to children and young people aged 5-18 years – with four entry groups, Primary Schools, Secondary Schools, Schools for Pupils with Special Educational Needs and Sixth Form/Further Education colleges. Home-schooled children in Washington are also being invited to enter. 

With many schools already signed up to take part in the design challenge, the workshops at Arts Centre Washington are the latest in a series organised by George’s charity MOBIE to help children and young people taking part in the challenge develop their plans.

“We have been truly amazed by the creativity, enthusiasm, team work and fun, that has been generated during our workshops. We have been so impressed by the future thinking ideas and visions that these young students have come up with, and very grateful for the support of their teachers. It has been an absolute pleasure for us to run these sessions and I cannot wait to show everyone their ideas, designs and models at the challenge finals in July. There is still loads of time to take part in a workshop, so please get in touch.”

George Clarke, who grew up in Washington

The closing date for submissions for the design challenge is Friday 17 May 2024, with the winners being announced and presented with their prizes at Washington’s 60th anniversary celebrations in July.

“We’re really excited to be working with George and his charity MOBIE on this project.

“It’s a great opportunity for schools across Washington to get involved in the 60th birthday celebrations and I’d encourage any schools who haven’t already signed up for the design challenge to do so while there’s still time. 

“The workshops have been really popular with both the young people and the teachers who have taken part in them so far and I can’t wait to see the designs they come up with.”

Councillor Sean Laws, chair of the steering group planning the 60th birthday celebrations and chair of Sunderland City Council’s Washington Area Committee

The design challenge workshops, which are free to attend, are being held at Arts Centre Washington on:

Wednesday 13 March

  • 16.30 – 18.00 – this tea time session is open to all young people and their accompanying guardians

Thursday 21 March 

  • morning session 09.00 – 12.00
  • afternoon session 12.30 – 15.30

Thursday 25 April

  • 12.30-3.30pm

All sessions need to be booked with Gerry Ruffles Head of Education for MOBIE by emailing  or ringing him on 07790035959. 

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