A landmark development for Plymouth

Sugar Quay

Location Plymouth
Client Sutton Harbour Group

Brief history

The site is in historic Sutton Harbour, the last departure point of the Mayflower and Plymouth's original port. Today, Sutton Harbour is a busy fishing port and 450 berth marina.

Sugar Quay achieved unanimous planning in April 2022. The site will see the erection of a 21 storey skyscraper and 170 residential apartments, as well as commercial and retail units. AWW’s design is a direct response to the Plymouth City Council Waterfront Strategic Masterplan from 2017 where this land plays a key role in defining a new approach into the city and creating an improved gateway from the east.

Project vision

We wanted to deliver a design that would become a pivotal landmark on the harbourside. The site is in an area designated for tall buildings, however, our approach was not to create a single tall element, but to take a more fluid approach and have aspects of the development take height precedent from the adjacent buildings. For example, the south east corner will be raised to match the height of the Salt Quay House development to the south. From this point, the height will increase from 10 storeys to 20 storeys as the development moves north. This will minimise any overshadowing issues.

Adding value

The 0.57 hectare site boasts unrestricted views of the harbour and Plymouth Sound. Our design seeks to maximise views out, so the orientation of the building has been developed in direct response to these unique vantage points. With pedestrian access possible from both Sutton Road and the path around the harbour, we have also considered improvements to the public realm in our design.

Design delivery

The proposal builds on the principles of the Area Action Plan in its layout and orientation. The north façade is aligned with the opposing block on Sutton Road. The ground floor commercial plinth is curved, opening up the site to the adjacent public areas, in particular to the north on the proposed boulevard. The emphasis of this boulevard creates a vista across Sutton Harbour towards St. John’s Church. The water-facing façades of the proposal feature a residential entrance and retail frontages, creating a vibrancy of activity in this area.

User experience

The mixed use scheme has been developed to maximise and enhance key features in and around the site. The layout of the programme is key in helping to achieve this. The commercial programme is located in a semi circle at ground floor, directly addressing the harbour. By placing the commercial element of the development here, this will help animate this currently inactive area of the site and drive pedestrian movement into the proposed new public space.


The layout of Sugar Quay has been designed so all public areas are overlooked with no hidden recesses, to ensure the scheme is secure by design. The plans will offer private amenity for all residents in the form of balconies and roof terraces. Alongside this will sit active ground floor frontage by the principal residential entrance and atrium, and the residential gym located on the south east corner.

Harbour view

The form expresses a visual link in heights between the adjacent buildings, rising up to the pinnacle to the north of the site. The stem reaches out to the harbour to form a connection with the water, pulling the maritime activities into the site. This allows generous spaces to be created between the existing residential building to the south and the office building to the north.

View from Exeter Street

The northern pinnacle stands as an urban marker, clearly identifying the eastern gateway to the historic harbour of Plymouth. The façade to the roadside is formed of triangles, evoking images of sails and the history of Sutton Harbour. The resultant seamless, highly machined sail wraps the building against the street. Towards the water, the façade is opened and more transparent; broken with large windows and balconies.

Sugar Quay represents a step change for Sutton Harbour and Plymouth. This is a bold architectural intervention that signals confidence and will serve as a catalyst for development to the east of the city centre. We are pleased to be at the forefront of this time of change."

Ian Sanders, Project Director

Ground floor

The ground floor is pierced by a central spine, providing entrances for residents from the waterside and from the street. Essential building services and utilities are located in the centre of the building to allow commercial/ retail/ restaurants to face the waterside and street, contributing towards a vibrant public realm.

Upper floor

The spine is repeated on every floor, breaking the mass of the residential building above into two right angled forms separated by glass, culminating in the movement of the residents' panoramic glass lifts. This innovative approach to the layout ensures that every apartment has a waterside view from its own private balcony.