Home    About Us   Contact Us     Subscribe




Pioneering Forum Stimulates Urban Regeneration Debate

Leeds, UK: A British architect's vision to enhance the quality of projects that impact on our everyday lives brings together key players who shape cities and towns throughout Yorkshire.

by ArchNewsNow
August 12, 2002

Editor’s note: Links to firms, agencies, and projects mentioned are included at the end of the article.


In January 2001, Ian Tod of Allen Tod Architecture, aware that much of the quality work being done in the region was largely invisible and unknown, set out to widen the debate on creating quality places in which people live, work, and play. Supported by RIBA Yorkshire, he invited 16 regional architectural practices to share a common platform in the “4x4 2001: Making Our Cities” initiative that comprised a series of four presentations over four weeks at Leeds Metropolitan University School of Architecture.


“4x4 started as a response to various comments that Leeds (and other places in the region) needed major projects from outside architects if it was to achieve its aspirations as a European city,” Ian Tod recalls. “When discussing this, we had to recognize that the design strengths of the region were hidden, partly because of a London emphasis in the media – but also because we, ourselves, were not doing anything about it.


“The first year was therefore concentrated on removing the covers and finding out what was going on, mainly in Leeds,” Tod explains. “This led to a series of follow up meetings that are pursuing, amongst other things, design competitions and a study tour.”


Objectives and Issues


According to Tod, 4x4 is about stimulating informed debate. It provides an opportunity for people to hear the views of the designers, engineers, developers, politicians, and public servants who are actively engaged in delivering change and improvements in towns and cities.


It is an open (and free) forum. It intends to avoid being what Tod calls “coconut shy,” where speakers are there to be attacked by members of the public, but does choose topics that can be controversial. “Making good places requires the co-operation of numerous agencies, much creative skill from many people, and lots of persistence,” Tod says.


The series provides insights into the development process that is little understood in public debate – which tends to concentrate on the promises, the problems, and then, briefly, the results. 4x4 hopes to open up the process – the different players involved in delivering regeneration openly discuss the driving ideas and principles, and the problems and solutions encountered.


“In September 2001, a group of 4x4 participants went to the European Building Exhibition in Malmö, Sweden. It was agreed that a debate that spread across the professions and roles would be even more valuable,” says Tod.


The 2002 4x4 Making Our Cities event certainly did stimulate debate. The four sessions, held over four weeks in February and March, included politicians, architects, traffic engineers, a community artist, public servants, a museum director, developers, master planners, and journalists. Most importantly, at each event, about 200 community members (the public!) turned out for – and contributed to – the debates.


The issues raised included: the nature of residential development in city centers; the current dominance of a selected list of bars and cafes; the lack of medical facilities; the importance of quality in buildings and public areas; whether a single architectural vision can deliver variety in a major scheme; how art and public places can be brought into infrastructure and transport schemes; the role of public agencies and public and private finance; and the ability of the private sector to deliver good public spaces.


The 2002 Presentations


City Visions: The Vision Thing


The first session, on February 28, looked at the value and necessity of urban visions and ambitions, with input from designers, administrators, politicians, and senior representatives from the development agency Yorkshire Forward whose Urban Renaissance Programme is taking on the challenge to rejuvenate a group of towns in the region.


Former head of Sheffield Development Agency, Colin Farmer, explained the thinking behind the “Heart of Sheffield” project which has involved the demolition of the 1970’s Town Hall as well as the construction of Peace Gardens, Millennium Gallery, and Winter Garden in a plan designed to tie back together a city that had become fragmented. He also highlighted issues of delivery, teamwork, and persistence.


Councillor Liz Minkin of Leeds explained the process behind the “Vision for Leeds,” and explained how the Leeds Initiative was structured to deliver results. Minkin emphasized the importance of the public realm to the city. Alan Simpson, Yorkshire Forward’s Director of Regeneration, and Helen Farrar, Urban Renaissance Manager, explained how the Renaissance Towns Initiative works with a panel of consultants drawn from the UK, the US, and Europe. As a hot local issue, this has stimulated ongoing debate. Jon Rouse, Chief Executive of CABE, chaired the session.


Landmarks and Quarters


Kevin Grady, Director of the Leeds Civic Trust, chaired the second session. He started by covering some of the larger challenges and projects in the region including the Holbeck Urban Village in Leeds that has been a long time in gestation.


The first major scheme is now on site at the Round Foundry and the developer, Roland Stross of St. James Securities, explained how the mix had been achieved with current market demands and grant finance. Architect Ken Moth of BDP explained the design that is a mix of restoration and new buildings around a set of courtyards.


On a site nearby, planning consent has recently been obtained for Bridgewater Place, which, at 32 stories, will be the tallest building in Leeds and will occupy a gateway site to the city. Dominic Boyes of Abbey Holford Rowe (now Aedas AHR) presented this proposal.


At the other end of the city center is the Clarence Dock development alongside The Royal Armouries Museum. Gordon Carey of Carey Jones Architects outlined future plans. In contrast to the above – in building type and economic context, if not in scale – Bill Maynard of Urban Splash set out their proposals for Lister’s Mill (or Manningham Mills) in Bradford. This is a massive undertaking, not only in terms of adaptive re-use and building, but also in achieving economic critical mass to make it work as a development with a sufficient mix of activity to make it work as a place. (This sparked another lively debate.)


Leisure vs. Culture


Martin Wainwright, Northern Editor of The Guardian newspaper, chaired the third program. The session partly set the strong commercial leisure sector against the more traditional culture of museums, theater, and the like.


Julian Monaghan of DLG Architects explained the commercial and design thinking behind major leisure schemes such as The Light and Xscape, showing how quality of place and a workable public domain can be created within them. David Bye of Brewster Bye explained the proposals developed by Yorkshire Design Developments and West Yorkshire Playhouse. This will provide resources for the Playhouse as well as new residential and commercial uses on Quarry Hill.


Stephen Feber, Chief Executive at Magna Science Adventure Centre, showed how a creative cultural project can be an attraction, a tool for regeneration, and also a growth point for education into the future, setting the debate in a new framework.


Leeds Civic Architect, John Thorp, explained the proposals for the City of Leeds Museum and the complex chess game required to achieve it. The Museum will be sited in the Leeds Institute, another ambitious 19th century building by Cuthbert Brodrick who designed the Town Hall and the Corn Exchange. This now overlooks the new Millennium Square and ties into other projects such as a new theater and a museum resource center in Hunslet.


Getting There: Transport, Movement, and Place


Under the chairmanship of Robert Powell of Public Arts, the fourth and final session covered the issue of transport. Andrew Hall of Leeds City Council set out the key points of the transport strategy for the city and the growing emphasis on public transportation.


In contrast, Adrian Sinclair concentrated on the local scale with the story of the Home Zones created in the Methleys over a few streets in Harehills. Irena Bauman, of Bauman Lyons Architects, explained the partnership and process behind the lively and iconic set of bus stops in Manchester Road, Bradford, that serve the new guided bus. Finally, Adrian Pope outlined the state of play with Leeds Supertram, where the process is now well underway with a selected list invited to bid.


The Way Forward


“Making good places needs common objectives and lively discussion,” Ian Tod declares. “These are required to underpin partnerships where wide-ranging organizations bring together the creative skills of the region. Powerful partnerships will enable us to not only sustain the vision for Leeds as a dynamic cosmopolitan capital – but to also realize the visions of the diverse towns and cities throughout the county.”


All the participants shared Tod’s enthusiasm for the 4x4 program. “It has brought together, for the first time, a range of professionals who should, but rarely do, engage in debate about built environment in this region. There is a hunger for such a forum,” said Irena Bauman, Bauman Lyons. “There is now a glimmer of hope that we may develop a cluster of highly engaged and inquisitive professionals who will campaign for a better quality of the built environment.”


Gordon Carey, Carey Jones Architects, said: “I believe that we should continue with these lectures/debates over the next few years to improve the public perception/understanding that the contribution of good urban design and architecture can make to our environment.”


The forum is accelerating from strength to strength and backed by supporting partners including English Heritage, RIBA Yorkshire, and the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward. A third 4x4 series is currently being planned for March 2003 at the Leeds Metropolitan University School of Architecture. In line with the theme of raising the level of debate on creating quality towns and cities, Ian Tod is coordinating a visit to this year’s Biennale di Venezia 8th International Architecture Exhibition, “NEXT: the future of world architecture.” The exhibition will showcase key projects that will shape the face of the built environment over the next decade. The event is taking place from September 8 - November 3, and the 4x4 group will be attending from October 24-28. An invitation is extended to interested parties. For more information, e-mail Jill Callighan at Allen Tod Architecture: or call her at + 44 113 244 9973.


The 2002 4x4 Participants


The Vision Thing:

- New Heart for Sheffield – Colin Farmer, former head of Sheffield Development Agency

- Vision for Leeds – Councillor Elizabeth Minkin, Leeds City Council

- The Yorkshire Renaissance Towns Programme – Alan Simpson, Director of Regeneration, Yorkshire Forward and Helen Farrar, Urban Renaissance Manager, Yorkshire Forward

- Chair – John Rouse, CABE


Landmarks and Quarters:

-Holbeck Urban Village, Round Foundry – Roland Stross, St. James Securities and Ken Moth, BDP/Building Design Partnership

- New Tower at Bridgewater Place, Leeds – Ken Morton/Ian Barraclough, Landmark Developments, and Dominic Boyes, Abbey Holford Rowe (now Aedas AHR)

- Clarence Dock – Gordon Carey, Carey Jones Architects with Berkeley Group

- Manningham Mills – Bill Maynard, Urban Splash

- Chair – Heather Hancock, Yorkshire Forward


Leisure vs. Culture:

- Big Leisure Projects, The Light and Xscape – Julian Monaghan, DLG Architects

- Partnering with West Yorkshire Playhouse – David Bye, Brewster Bye Architects

- Magna Science Adventure Centre – Stephen Feber, Magna Trust

- Leeds City Museum and Civic Theatre – John Thorp, Leeds Civic Architect

- Chair – Martin Wainwright, Northern Editor, The Guardian


Getting There: Transport, Movement, and Place:

- Home Zones – Adrian Sinclair, Heads Together

- Designing for Bradford’s Guided Bus – Irena Bauman, Bauman Lyons Architects

- Transport strategies for Leeds and the Region – Andrew Hall, Leeds City Council

- The Supertram project – Adrian Pope, Leeds Supertram

- Chair – Robert Powell, Public Arts


Founded in 1977, Allen Tod Architecture has offices in Leeds and London. Founders Ian Tod and Nick Allen head a team of 20 with fellow directors Bill Best, Simon Gedye, Andrew May, and Matthew Eyles. The team’s strengths, expertise, and commitment lie in delivering what the firm refers to as “people projects” that include regeneration, master planning, health, housing, arts and culture, leisure, and conservation projects. The practice has scooped a number of awards and nominations for pioneering regeneration projects. Services include architecture, urban design, landscape, project management, and conservation.


See also:


Nurturing Nature: Marie Curie Cancer Care Centre by Allen Tod Architecture

Sensitive architecture and therapeutic landscapes promote a sense of well being for a new hospice in Yorkshire.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

Lister's Mill in Manningham, Urban Splash

Clarence Dock, Carey Jones Architects with Berkeley Group

Peace Gardens, part of the New Heart for Sheffield

The Light, DLG Architects

The Magna project is fired with success

City of Leeds Museum, John Thorp, Leeds Civic Architect

Home Zones by Heads Together

One of the lively and iconic bus shelters in Bradford, Bauman Lyons Architects

Virtual tour of the Leeds Supertram

Ian Tod, Allen Tod Architecture

© 2002