Architectural Team: Fletcher Crane Architects / Toby Fletcher, Ian Crane and Sam Stevens Structural Engineer: Elliott Wood/Gary Elliott, George Georgiou Building Environment and Services Engineer: Skelly and Couch/Mark Skelly, Matthew Chantzidakis Quantity Surveyor: Quantem Consulting/Dan Watson Landscape Architects: Whitelaw Turkington/Ian Turkington
Commentary ‘The Loom’ is the apparatus for weaving strands of local business into a collective. The design approach will enable the scheme to have iconic status both locally and throughout Yorkshire giving local business’ a wider presence throughout the region. The proposed waterfront cafe on site, along with the retention of the existing restaurant will complement the business hub providing an alternative venue for meeting, networking and relaxing. Opening up the water front will provide a destination and meeting place for Leeds, attracting people to the area and facilitating exposure for the local business’.
The initial brief called for an iconic building, and delivering a commercially viable scheme that was able to meet that criteria whilst responding to the city urban design agenda, historic context presented a great challenge. The proposed scheme has been carefully developed to be appropriate to the site, but also be uniquely crafted, providing a presence at local, regional and national level. The proposals look to marry the external architecture with that of the interior environment, making the most of the fantastic site and location whilst providing the best possible working environment for the buildings owners and occupiers. The design sets out to be environmentally and socially sustainable whilst creating prime office space within a format that is efficient yet flexible. The building design aims to deliver a dramatic river front facade, utilising the expanse of the river and adjacent sheer faced wharf buildings of the south bank as a canvas. The proposal responds to the immediate vernacular, whereby the structural form continues the subtle contortion of the Calls wharf side roofscape. Recognising that the local area was made up of many small businesses, often in sub divided premises, the proposals seek to provide a section of the building as a local business support hub and business / social meeting space. The intention is that by providing a visual focus to the area local businesses will be able to utilize the premises for networking, entertaining and improved identity.
One of the key aspects of the proposal is to deliver a fantastic new public space for the city, a place that will provide extended use throughout the day beyond that of a conventional office development. In section the level changes from the street level through to riverside provide an opportunity to allow the proposed open space to be lower and therefore more immediate to the river, allowing the public to engage with and touch the water – something currently lacking with the Calls. The counterpoint to the open river front is the street facade. Working from the same rigorous grid layout two very different experiences are generated by the street facade. Deep columns reach down to the ground vertically, opening up on three grid lines at the various entrances to the building and river frontage. When approaching the building obliquely along the tight historic streets of the Calls the envelope appears as a solid form, in keeping with the masonry construction prevalent to the Calls. Once upon the building the arrangement of the columns will open up to provide tantalizing glimpses of the public space and river beyond.
The proposed new public space will provide the area with a unique and distinctive meeting place for the city. It will be a place to shelter from the cold during the winter months and bask during the summertime. It will be a philanthropic gesture to the city, reflecting the numerous delightful bustling arcades that can be found in the historic shopping district. One of the delightful attributes that this external space will acquire is the play and dance of light on the under side of the river front facade delivering a true connection with the building, surroundings and the elements. Internally the aesthetic is intrinsically linked to the external structure and architectural form. The columns are laid out on a typical commercial grid dimension and, because of the scale and massing of the building, you are always aware of the morphing structure. The top floors of the proposal will afford the opportunity for a fantastic contemporary space. a real synergy of structure, light and views, a combination that sets out to deliver premium office space, meeting rooms, board rooms or break-out spaces.
At the transition between the new and retained buildings the proposals adopt a light touch to preserve the integrity of the existing wharf building. Elements such as the huge signage will be retained in situ, becoming a bold part of the interior design. The construction of the extant wharf building will allow the richness of materiality to be explored and will deliver a contrast between the two sides of the development.