Part 2 – Matt Pearson

The Heart of the Machine

The iconic Brutalist Castle Market has closed, bringing 800 years of market trading in Castlegate to an end and plunging the area into a downward spiral of neglect. An ‘inresidence’ activist approach, using site-specific art installation, has led to a proposal for ‘The Heart of the Machine’, a vocational Arts and Engineering College that interlaces with the structure of the old market. To investigate the site and develop a dialogue with the community as part of the ‘in-residence’ methodology, a family of bespoke machined components or ‘clamps’, were designed to fit exactly around columns, handrails and other building elements of Castlegate.


Working closely, at a 1:1 scale, lent a deep understanding of the detail, form, materiality and condition of the physical environment of the site. The siting of the bright red clamps against the grey of the dilapidated materials of the area provided a strong contrast, grabbing attention and directing focus onto buildings that people normally ignored.

This art-led site-specific installation served to close the gaps between students, local people and the buildings of Castlegate, acting as a trigger to draw attention to the state of the site. These moments of increased intimacy between people and place raised questions around the ownership of the urban environment. The closing of Castle Market has led to great upheaval in the community and the act of ‘clamping’ the buildings that survive served as a conduit for people to voice concerns over the real cost, not just financial, but also social and environmental, of failing to re-use important building assets.

This form of creative survey disrupted the more traditional analysis and design process, massively opening up the project and introducing uncertainty right into the heart of the thesis. On a simple level the creative interplay between the group and the public revealed new information about the site and informed a more rounded understanding of what was happening in the area at the time. On a more complex level the clamps informed a thesis project that explored the social and cultural potential of working between and across Arts and Engineering. The emergent proposal sought to integrate the re-use of an iconic existing building, facilities to build skills and social cohesion and a new piece of the city that revives the optimism that was once felt for the future of Castlegate.


Part restoration, part new build, the new facilities are connected by the light-filled atriums and flying staircases of the original 1970’s market building to create a ‘theatre of learning’ that celebrates the collective memory and is inspired by the architectural confidence of previous generations. The old market hall forms a natural zone for collaboration where art and engineering students can meet, share ideas and work on interdisciplinary projects.

Just as carcasses were hoisted from the abattoirs into the meat markets that once occupied the site, cars are now winched on a carrousel into the engineering workshop for disassembly. The interdisciplinary nature of this key space, blurring engineering, art and theatre, continues across the whole College, setting the agenda for creativity and innovation. This is a community building and public spaces reach deep into the heart of the College, offering local people access and interaction with the work of the apprentices. The south elevation presents a dynamic participatory artwork – the engineered structure of the ‘machine’ holds an interactive fabric artwork developed and curated by the students themselves. This forms a dynamic front to the building while displaying possible futures for Castlegate to its citizens.



Bond Bryan Architects

West Yorkshire Society of Architects

Part of Lighting Exchanges from Deltalight

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