Swap old for new as we go on an architectural tour of Leeds, taking in the best new buildings of the past 20 years.
Leeds’ historic buildings get rich acclaim and it’s well deserved. But the city’s modern architecture is worth gazing upon too. This trail around Leeds takes you to some of the city’s more fascinating new buildings that you might not usually pay attention to – it’s time to look on the city with new eyes.
We’re kicking off our trail of modern Leeds buildings on Woodhouse Lane at the Laidlaw Library. Libraries are often architecturally impressive, particularly those from past centuries, but this one is a little different. It’s brand new, with a striking design that combines a pattern of sharp, geometric blocks with floor to ceiling windows, making it stand out in the midst of two old world churches. So much so that it won a prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects Yorkshire Award in 2016 with judges calling it ‘an elegant and precise structure’. We agree.
Just a little further down Woodhouse Lane is our next stop. Home to the Faculty of Arts, Environment and Technology at Leeds Beckett University, Broadcasting Place is a little bit like Marmite, love it or hate it. Its brash and bold colour changes over time thanks to the use of weathering steel. The unusual building dominates the skyline with its scrambled Jenga-like structure making it something of a city landmark – and while it isn’t to everyone’s tastes, it’s celebrated in the architectural world, winning the 2010 Best Tall Building in the World Award by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
First Direct Arena
First Direct Arena is one of the most striking venues in the country, and that has caused it to split opinion somewhat. It’s got a dramatic facade – the honeycomb structure is actually based on a mathematical diagram, creating a pattern of varied cellular shapes, which looks bold during the day, but really comes alive at night. The shapes are filled with glazed panels fitted with coloured, kaleidoscopic lights that allow the building the change colour when it sees fit, tying its theme into an event that’s on, a charitable cause or world events – it’s a sight to behold.
Another university building, the Rose Bowl is a state-of-the-art lecture and seminar space for Leeds Beckett University’s Business School. But while impressive work goes on inside, take a second to look at the building itself – it’s quite something. The facade is made of glass from the bottom to the fourth floor with cladding interspersed every three panes. The other side is home to its masterpiece, the Rose Bowl atrium with its towering geometric panelling making this a unique landmark that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves – although it did win a Yorkshire Property Award and a RICS ProYorkshire Award back in 2010.
Make your way down to Wellington Street to see a bold new building from DLA Architecture. From the front, Central Square looks like any other office complex, but head round to the West Point side and it’s a different story entirely. It’s got a stunning glass atrium, which slopes down the side of the structure from the 8th storey to the main entrance. Step inside, and there’s more to see, thanks to the incredible 43-foot Vierendeel steel structure which holds the glass panels in place. Look out for the colour-changing LED cables, which turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.
Now head down Wellington Street towards Trinity Leeds. The unique layout of the development allowed architects SKM Anthony Hunts to push the boat out a little when it came to designing a roof for the building and they didn’t disappoint. The glass dome covers 40,000 square foot of space using 1902 glass panels embedded into a steel framework that reaches 100 foot above street level – in fact, it’s so big, you could fit the whole of Leeds Corn Exchange underneath it. It really is a triumph of modern design.
From Trinity Leeds, leave via Boar Lane and head underneath the railway arches to Granary Wharf. It’s an area that has seen plenty of new developments in recent years, but few stand out as much as Candle House. It’s 75 metres tall and was constructed in a twisted brickwork style to create that iconic candlestick-like appearance. Home to 160 of the most coveted flats in Leeds, it’s the first major landmark people see as they enter the city on the train, and one we should be proud of too, considering how well it fits in with the surrounding industrial architecture.
You can’t do a trail of modern Leeds architecture without the tallest building in the city. Bridgewater Place opened in 2007, but the building, also known as The Dalek, hasn’t been without controversy – those wind tunnels can cause chaos. Its highest point is 476ft above ground level, which comfortably dwarfs the other buildings in Leeds. Not everyone likes it though – Building Design nominated it for its Carbuncle Cup, for ‘buildings so ugly they freeze the heart’.
Victoria Gate is a big architectural talking point for the city. The John Lewis store features an intricate concrete criss-cross pattern inspired by the city’s textile history and Leeds’ past also informs the Victoria Gate arcade – it puts a modern spin on the classical Victoria Quarter design, embellished with a stunning statement roof, featuring 1,030 diamond-shaped glass panels. The external pleated brickwork of the new arcade is quite the feat, making use of cutting-edge technology to carefully place 360,000 different bricks and even the car park will catch your eye thanks to the 228 twisted metal panels that cover it.Cover image copyright Ollievision.