The new addition to the city centre of Leeds features, the recently opened Victoria Gate arcades a flagship John Lewis store and a new Multi Storey car park – developed by Hammerson and designed by ACME.
Inspired by the grand Victorian arcades that make up Leeds’ rich architectural heritage, including Victoria Quarter, Victoria Gate is a 21st century interpretation of shops and public spaces that will become a long-lasting piece of city life. Victoria Gate is defined by its bold contemporary exterior and a series of new streets and connections that will reconnect disparate parts of the city.
The John Lewis store anchors the development with a striking diagrid façade which relates to a number of civic buildings on the Headrow built from very sculptural stone. The new store elevations are ordered through a deep set of pilasters starting vertically and leaning slowly as the columns rise to form a changing pattern of polished reconstituted stone. Windows have been set into the diagrid wherever daylight was desired internally all other areas have been designed with bronze and ivory coloured terracotta infills. The magnificent three-dimensional exterior has been designed as a new landmark for the city relating to the scale and grandeur of the nearby Corn Exchange and the Town Hall’s civic architecture. With five trading floors and a rooftop restaurant the new John Lewis store is the tallest post-war department store in the UK and the largest John Lewis outside of London. At the eastern entrance to the development the store will help to rebalance the commercial centre of Leeds that had shifted to the west and away from Kirkgate Market over the last few years.
The exterior of Victoria Gate is inspired by the Art Deco age Blomfield buildings of the Headrow and the Victorian terracotta buildings of Vicar Lane. Leeds was an affluent mercantile city in the past and the buildings in the context reflect this through elevations rich in texture and relief. A three-dimensional brick and terracotta façade is pleated to create a multitude of shadows and depth across the building produced from detailed computer models locating each of the 460 000 bricks. Brass and rust coloured metals have been used at higher levels to create a family of complementary materials in the traditional Leeds terracotta colours.
Located on the prominent eastern corner facing Quarry Hill and the Northern Playhouse MSCP the 800-space Multi-Storey Car Park represented an opportunity to create a sense of welcome and arrival in the city centre encouraging future connectivity to Quarry Hill. ACME has woven the car park design into the architectural narrative of the Victoria Gate so that it does not become a neglected afterthought. Taking references from the diagrid pattern on the department store the façade is made up of hundreds of twisting aluminum fins. These fins are spaced to allow natural ventilation of the building and create an ever-shifting pattern of light shadow and reflections evoking the appearance of a diagrid at various times of the day.
Friedrich Ludewig Director ACME said:
“Leeds is a city rich in architectural history and ACME has greatly enjoyed working within the historic fabric and adding a new 21st century interpretation to the city’s traditional retail arcades sculptural brick and ornamental terracotta. Together with Hammerson and supported by Leeds City Council we have worked hard to create buildings that are specific to their place and time and unmistakably a part of Leeds and we look forward to the public taking ownership of this new space.”